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.

E-mail me

Friday, July 26, 2002
Roy Campbell, IV


Our rifles were too hot to hold,
The night was made of tearing steel,
And down the street the volleys rolled
Where as in prayer the snipers kneel.
From every cranny, rift, or creek,
I heard the fatal furies scream,
And the moon held the river's gleam
Life a long rifle to its cheek.
Of all that fearful fusillade
I reckoned not the gain or loss
To see (her every forfeit paid)
And grander, though her riches fade,
Toledo, hammered on the Cross,
And in her Master's wounds arrayed.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002
Check this out. About bloody time! (And it seems to be a popular idea too -- check out the poll.)

R& J notes, III

Eve writes: DON'T BELIEVE IN MODERN LOVE: Finished Love in the Western World last night. Awesome, awesome book. Discerns the root of the Western cult of passionate love (suffering for its own sake; "in love with love"; love against marriage) in the troubadours and heretics of the 11th-12th centuries.

And that's the template of the Rosaline/Juliet chasm, isn't it? In I.1-4 Romeo is in love with love, relishing what he takes to be his suffering ("sad hours seem long"), and on the whole probably not thinking along marital lines ("...she'll not be hit/With Cupid's arrow -- she hath Dian's wit/And in strong proof of chastity well arm'd" etc. etc.) He never even names Rosaline (except in reading her name on Capulet's guest list) until doing the post-game wrap-up about her with Friar Laurence in II.3.

Juliet, by contrast, is for Romeo a person -- a "subjectivity," as JPII might say -- as soon as he sees her. The very first thing he says about her is to ask a servant who she is; with Rosaline, one wonders if he even cared, as long as he had an excuse for "adding to the clouds more clouds with his deep sighs."


I know, it's not one of the themes I originally announced for this blog, and it may seem odd to introduce it now, when the major leagues -- not, I insist, the game itself: just the bloated, spoiled-rotten major-leaguers -- may be about to scratch themselves permanently off the nation's care-about list, by means of another strike: not the kind pitchers are supposed to throw, but a labor action, if you please, as if these were oppressed proletarians or something.

But the game could survive without the majors: it's the minor leagues today that preserve the spirit of the old-time majors. Baseball is not the only game in America, but it is America's game.

What is Cacciaguida's perspective, as a 12th century Crusader? Well, American football, a.k.a. Lots Of Big Guys Knocking Each Other Down, closely resembles the battles of my day, though with less blood (for that you need ice hockey). So it would appear football is the medieval sport.

Sed contra: It was also the achievement of the Middle Ages to systematize things, to impose elegant order on chaos. This is the spirit of St. Thomas Aquinas, and of that chip-off-the-ol'-block Dante. And it is also the genius of baseball.

So, while it won't become a frequent theme for this blog, I would like to call your attention to my new set of baseball links at the bottom of the left margin; especially Mets Blog, were we read this:

Piazza, Mo, Payton, Roberto, Rey-O and some others are really picking it up these past few weeks, I'm happy to say. The one person who isn't hitting is Jeromy Burnitz. He'll never work! Chris Chambliss is the best!! Everyone has been hitting well since Chambliss came (except for that thing that hangs around right field that spells his name wrong, ignores fans and can't hit beach balls pitched underhand, Jeromy Burnitz).

Tuesday, July 23, 2002
Roy Campbell, III

The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War found Roy and Mary Campbell in Toledo, squarely in the Red zone, but with a fortress (alcazar in Castilian; accent on the second syllable) held by a brave band of Nationalists. More about the Alcazar of Toledo later.

Despite the dangers, the Campbells attended Mass as often as possible (the Red regime had a policy of looking the other way while militias affiliated with its more radical parties burned churches and massacred priests, monks, and nuns). Mary would wear the biggest friggin' mantilla she could find; Roy would hit the bars aftewards to argue with the Red thugs and probably punch a few of them out. (Where are the people like that when nominations are being taken for the parish council?!)


Toledo, when I saw you die
And heard the roof of Carmel crash,
A spread-winged phoenix from its ash
The Cross remained against the sky!
With horns of flame and haggard eye
The mountain vomited with blood,
A thousand corpses down the flood
Were rolled gesticulating by,
And high above the roaring shells
I heard the silence of your bells
Who've left these broken stones behind
Above the years to make your home,
And burn, with Athens and with Rome,
A sacred city of the mind.

Sunday, July 21, 2002
R&J notes, II

Eve Tushnet makes an important point here about the medieval cult (or movement or fad) of Courtly Love: namely, that it had, at best, nothing to do with marriage, and that, at worst, the beloved's husband was just one more obstacle that the devoted lover would not allow to stand in his way.

The opposite impression -- that Courtly Love had something to do with loving "pure and chaste from afar" -- can only come from over-exposure to Man of La Mancha or to Wagner's Tannhauser (both fine works in their way).

For the dark side of Courtly Love, see the text Eve recommends -- Denis de Rougemont's Love in the Western World -- and also C.S. Lewis's The Allegory of Love, especially the first chapter.

However, the courtly tradition did not remain stuck in that morass (I was going to say "rut"). Dante made a huge breakthrough in his Vita Nuova, where his semi-divine Beatrice was the object of an intense yet utterly chaste devotion. This is carried forward in the Divine Comedy (here, here, and here, for the superbly annoted Dorothy Sayers version, or see my left margin for a link to the Musa translation), which he brashly promised at the end of the Vita Nuova:
"So that, if it pleases Him for whom all things live that my life may last for some years, I hope to say of her what was never said of any other woman." This is an impossible passage to translate (I have used the superb version by Cervigni and Vasta), as the verb dicer, translated as "to say," implies saying in verse -- i.e., writing a poem.

After Dante, the next step was to romanticize (Allan Bloom might say, eroticize) marital love itself. Some credit may be owed here to Spenser for Book III of The Faerie Queene; I'll leave that to others. My view, unsurprisingly, is that the breakthrough is Romeo and Juliet.

By the way, I can't agree with de Rougemont's attempt (p. 190) to locate Romeo in a neo-Cathar, death-worshiping tradition that culminates in Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. The many uses of "death" and "die" in R&J are of course significant, but in quite a different way.

Kelly Case, III

Amy Welborn repeats here, uncritically, a Washington Post report obviously designed to put the Kelly family in the worst possible light. (Click here for my first editorial on this case.) For the Post, and evidently for the criminal justice authorities in Prince William County, VA, expecting older children in a large family to help out routinely with childrearing tasks is simply dysfunctional. In fact, it is a common, healthy, educational, and character-forming aspect of large families, and one of the reasons large families are to be admired. I express no opinion here on whether the Kellys overdid it in this regard, but I express strong and negative ones about the agenda of those of who think such intrafamilial arrangements are per se evidence of a troubled family.

Monday, July 15, 2002
A few days off

Cacciaguida will now be away for a few days, hopefully learning something about Christian anthropology, about which he will blog when he gets back, if it's bloggable. See you next weekend.

Roy Campbell, II
First in a series of Campbell's Spanish Civil War poems


Close at my side a girl and boy
Fell firing, in the doorway here,
Collapsing with a strangled cheer
As on the very couch of joy,
And onward through a wall of fire
A thousand others rolled the surge,
And where a dozen men expire
A hundred myrmidons emerge --
As if the Christ, our Solar Sire,
Magnificent in their inent,
Returned the bloody way he went,
Of so much blood, of such desire,
And so much valour proudly spent,
To weld a single heart of fire.

A case for irreducible subjectivity in esthetics?

So, I was at a symposium over the weekend at which the topic was whether "beauty is in the mind of the beholder." While many of us struggled to defend sheer objectivity in beauty, columnist Maggie Gallagher (whose books Enemies of Eros and The Abolition of Marriage you should buy and read now) pointed out that without a beholder, there is no beauty, because (if I have her argument right) beauty is not only a description of an objective condition, but also a narrative of that condition's effect on someone else. Very interesting. Comments welcome.

R&J notes (first of a series)

When Juliet was three, she fell down and bumped her head. The next day, there was an earthquake. (I.3.22-27,38-40, Oxford Shakespeare edition)

We're going to have to watch this kid.

Friday, July 12, 2002
Roy Campbell

I was paging today through Camille Paglia's Sexual Personae to see whether she says anything interesting about my current research project, Romeo and Juliet. She doesn't. I did, however, find this, on page 171: "Chaucer's comic persona resembles that of Charlie Chaplin's Little Tramp, whom I seem to be alone in loathing."

I'll defend Chaucer some other time. What gets me is that the extraordinarily well-read Paglia seems unaware that, on the Little Tramp issue, she has a soulmate in Roy Campbell. This English/South African poet from the Age of Eliot was a rough-and-tumble rightist who exalted hunting, fought for Franco in the Spanish Civil War, converted to Catholicism while so doing, and, when invited to speak on college campuses, preferred guzzling beer with the football team to sipping sherry with the English department. Campbell is very rough indeed on the Little Tramp in his autobiographical reflections, Broken Record.

Plenty of editions of Campbell's poetry, and of his other autobiography Light on a Dark Horse, can be found through Also, St. Augustine's Press is bringing out a new volume of his work. I'll blog some of my favorite Campbells in the near future.

The Amidala of home-schooling

Sissi Smith, 17-year-old Catholic home-school student and indefatigable blogger, defends home-schooling against an attack from one of her friends. Go and root for Sissi here. She's on top of things! (Little AOTC joke there, for you insiders.)

Thursday, July 11, 2002
Many good points made here by George Mason Law's Peter Berkowitz, in a suitably piqued NR retort to Sean Wilentz's NY Times attack on Justice Scalia.

Movin' on up

So, if I read the Old Oligarch aright, he and Zorak are moving into the Diocese of Arlington! Excellent choice!

New links

Check out what's new in my left margin. Under blogs, I've added Summa Contra Mundum.

Under Catholicism, I've added two sites for Jewish converts to Catholicism (have I mentioned that I'm one?): the Association of Hebrew Catholics, and Remnant of Israel.

I've also added St. Joseph Communications, purveyors of great audio and video materials from Scott Hahn and many others. If you've ever wished you coud take in a lively yet in-depth study of some particular Biblical topic while on your next long drive, St. Joe is where you go.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002
The latest from Sudan

Courtesy of Zenit, a Catholic e-news agency --

Catholic Mission in Sudan Turned into an Islamic Military Post
Witness Says Church Desecrated

KAPOETA, Sudan, JULY 8, 2002 ( Muslim troops have razed a Catholic mission near here, using its church altar as a kitchen and its bricks to build mosques and military fortifications, a witness reported.

"The mission of Our Lady of Sorrows in Kapoeta, a beautiful church, has been reduced to its foundations," Torit Diocese spokesman Gervasius Okot told the Misna missionary agency.

Okot inspected this town in the Eastern Equatorial region of war-torn southern Sudan last Thursday.

The Sudanese People's Liberation Army, which has been battling the forces of the Khartoum government, captured the city on June 9. The National Islamic Front has since seized the mission property, located about 3 kilometers from Kapoeta.

"The Sudanese government deliberately transformed the church into the military command of the Kapoeta region, from where it implements all the secret plans of the National Islamic Front," Okot said. "It is one of the advance posts frequently used by President Omar Hassan el-Bashir as a residence."

"From there, general El Bashir prays to Allah in the mosque built with the bricks of the demolished church," the Catholic spokesman added. "The president also meets there with senior officers to plan the strategies of a war carried out through murders, tortures, Islamization and 'Arabization' of the so-called 'abid,'" or slave.

The mission parish had been founded by the Comboni missionaries in 1935, Okot added. The mission's structure was kept intact for over 10 years, but now it is deserted, he said.

"The only thing of the sacred place that is still standing is the area of the altar and tabernacle, but they have been used for a long time for activities that it is best not to mention," he said. "Cooking has also been done there. There are cigarettes and burnt wood on the floor. On the altar there are all kinds of insults against Christians written in Arabic."

...and from Pakistan (also courtesy of Zenit):

Mentally Ill Man Stoned to Death for Blasphemy in Pakistan

FAISALABAD, Pakistan, JULY 8, 2002 ( A mentally ill Pakistani who said he was "the last prophet of Islam" was stoned to death by a crowd incited by a prayer leader at a mosque.

Zahid Shah, 40, was stoned to death on Friday in a village near Faisalabad, in central Pakistan, international press agencies reported.

Maulvi Faquir Mohammed, who led prayers at the mosque, instigated the crowd outside, through the temple's megaphone, to stone him.

The death comes about a week after a Christian was sentenced to death in the country for alleged blasphemy against Islam, Compass Direct reported.

Augustine Ashiq "Kingri" Masih, 25, was convicted June 29 by the Faisalabad District and Sessions Court on charges of slandering the Muslim prophet Mohammed. Under the Pakistan penal code, Masih must be hanged for the alleged offense.

Masih was jailed in May 2000 on accusations that he made derogatory remarks against the prophet Mohammed, while some Muslim acquaintances were questioning him about changing his religious faith.

He is the second Christian so sentenced by Faisalabad's lower courts in the past two months.

Monday, July 08, 2002
This -- is really great!
Thanks to Zorak for this one. Enrich your vocabulary with help from the Eskimos!

Today's first reading (Monday, 14th week in Ordinary Time) edited, leading to a somewhat choppy cite: Hosea 2:16, 17c-18, 21-22. But even chopped, it sounds a striking "bridal mysticism" note concerning the God-Israel relationship (and, on the analogical principle, to the Christ-Church and Christ-believer relationship):

Thus says the Lord:
I will allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak to her heart.
She shall respond there as in the days of her youth,
when she came up from the land of Egypt.

On that day, says the Lord,
She shall call me "My husband,"
and never again "My baal."

Note that Israel (and you and I) in its (and your and my) disaffection from God, fell into thinking about God not as Lord but as "Baal," that is, a lord who is violent and selfish. Just the way unbelievers think about God. (The term "Baal" means "lord" in one of the languages of the peoples neighboring Israel, but it was particularly linked to cults such as that of Moloch.)

It's interesting that in Hosea's text, God does not merely reply that He's a good lord rather than a bad one, but goes further and invokes marital imagery. Perhaps for many women today that's not a positive image, but we know there's no such issue here, because it's Israel "herself" (i.e. it's the "wife" talking) who (Hosea predicts) will "respond as in the days of her youth" to God.

Friday, July 05, 2002
More on Kelly case

A reader writes in:

You are wrong about Paul Ebert. My brother-in-law worked in his office for many
years. He is conscientious, he is not a prosecutor prone to overreaching. I do
not think there is any question about his trying to teach big families a lesson.
I just can't imagine that's something that he has any interest in doing.

OK, now Ebert has had his defense on this site. Prince William voters: you've heard both sides -- now get ready for the campaign.

It is
a bigger risk to him, politically, to prosecute, not vice versa.

From your lips to God's ears.

I can make a
case for not prosecuting any parent who has engaged in less than intentional
conduct that harmed their child, because losing a child is a severe punishment
by itself, and punishing the rest of the family by removing a parent is highly
questionable. Juries seem to agree -- for instance, they almost never convict
parents who fail to have their children secured in a safety seat at the time of
an accident, at least when the parent has not been driving recklessly. For this
reason alone, I suspect that Mr. Kelly will do no jail time. Add to that the
reluctance of everyone involved to traumatize the Kelly children further by
forcing them to give testimony, and I don't foresee any great peril to Mr.
Kelly's liberty. These are prudential considerations, however, and do not bear
on whether the conduct was objectively wrongful enough to be considered

I agree with most of this. But: prudential considerations are also part of prosecutorial discretion -- in fact, one could argue that they belong there even more than in jury deliberations. Theoretically, a jury is only supposed to determine what the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt, and then compare that with the conduct banned by the statute(s), and determine whether the former fits the latter. But in practice, juries do take circumstances into account.

And even though I tend to agree that involuntary manslaughter is on the extreme
end of what could be charged here, I suggest that you may be indulging the
opposite bias of that which you accuse Mr. Ebert: giving large "loving"
Catholic families a free pass for the errant conduct of the parents.

Clearly, defining the "protected" category by religion would raise constitutional problems, and the term "loving" (a) has no legal definition, and (b) looks at the wrong factor: we're interested not so much in the parents' emotional state vis-a-vis their children, but at something much more elusive -- what makes a "good" family, with all the ideological freight that such an inquiry would carry. Our society is characterized by chasmic differences over what makes a "good" family, and these differences are on display in the Kelly case. That's the point of my earlier post.

parent, no matter how good, stores up the "near misses" that haunt them for a
long time after it's clear that everything turned out to be alright. This could
happen in a smaller family: I will admit that my younger child once wandered
the neighborhood looking for a friend's house when my husband and I both thought
that the other had her. A neighbor brought her back. It's been years, and I
still cringe at what might have happened. I look at the Kelly situation, and I
think, perhaps it would be understandable if one or even two hours had elapsed
-- it probably takes an hour just to get 11 kids organized for lunch, when the
headcount then reveals one missing. Even in that forgivable amount of time, the
baby might have died. But that baby was missing from the family and in the car
for seven hours. She was the youngest -- the one who should have had the most,
not the least, of her father's attention. The Kelly family never noticed -- it
was their neighbors who noticed and called for help.

I believe I accounted for this argument by conceding in my original post that some sort of child neglect charge could be justified. And I'm not unaware of the benefits of sending the message that parents have to take care of their children (though this message is, for many, rendered arbitrary when the same society permits parents to kill their children as long as they do it early enough). But criminal conviction requires a mens rea, a "guilty (or blameworthy) mind." Negligence can be a form of mens rea, but what I've so far learned from teaching criminal law a few times is that the negligence required for a criminal conviction is several notches more severe than the negligence required for tort liability. Parents who go for weekend in Las Vegas -- or, for that matter, Lourdes -- and leave 13 children in the care of a 17-year-old -- now that's criminally negligent. You would draw the line somewhere between 2 hours and 7 hours. That's defensible. But, as you note, it would justify the child neglect charge, not the manslaughter charge. (BTW, your point about the youngest being entitled to special care is well taken.)

It just does no good to look at this through the lens of good family/bad family
dynamics. Notwithstanding your really snide comments about paying others for
child care, and whether the Kellys generally were doing right by their children,
I suggest that Mr. Kelly and his family (and certainly Frances) would have been
better served if he and his wife acknowledged that he needed help when his wife
was away, and had paid a trustworthy cousin, or church or neighborhood friend to
look after the younger children during the day, in Mrs. Kelly's absence. Even
with only four kids, that's what my stay at home mom did when she had to go to
the hospital or out of town. For whatever it's worth, it's what my
mother-in-law did with her brood of six as well.

On the latter point, who would argue otherwise? As to paid, "professional" day care as a social institution (i.e. I'm not talking about particular cases), it deserves a lot worse than snide. We are already far down the path toward Spartanization of family life, except that we institutionalize the kids earlier than the Spartans did. Families that resist this trend, yet find themselves in legal trouble because of an act of negligence, should get every reasonable benefit of the doubt. But they don't: they get the book thrown at them.

Thursday, July 04, 2002
Kelly case: teaching big families a lesson?

Sorry to post on this on Independence Day, but we have to remember what we still have to achieve along with what was achieved back in 1776.

I can't seem to link to a Washington Post article on the case, but click here and do a search for "Manassas father." Or maybe this link will work.

Briefly, the Kellys have 13 wonderful kids; on May 29 the youngest, Frances, age 21 months, suffocated in a closed van. Dad was in charge of the whole crew, and had delegated care of Frances to one of the older ones (a boy of 17). It is undisputed that this is a close and loving family, and this living nightmare has devastated them all. The funeral was quite wrenching enough even for friends on the outer margins of the Kelly circle, such as Cacciaguida. So now it's time for grieving and then healing, right?

Well, no. It seems it's time for criminal charges against dad, with a maximum sentence of 15 years.

It appears that Paul Ebert, Commonwealth's Attorney for Prince William County, VA, has decided to use this excruciating family catastrophe to make an example of one of those large Catholic families that tend to congregate in Manassas (click here or here). Everything that his office has leaked so far about the case suggests a campaign to characterize as criminally negligent certain features of large families, especially the way the older children often help out with looking after the younger ones. (We could also talk about the way Ebert's office is playing the defendant-dad off against his own children, who have retained separate counsel.)

The message seems to be: as long as you have no more than two kids, you can outsource their upbringing to strangers ("professionals," in therapeutic-state-speak) from infancy, and you're a great parent. You're also legally insulated: if a disaster occurs, the school or day-care center will be on the hook, not you -- you could even be the plaintiff! But if you ask your 17-year-old to look after your toddler, and the worst that can happen does happen, then you too can be like Kevin Kelly: a hard-working, family-doting, Mass-going, abortion-clinic-picketing dad in the criminal dock for involuntary manslaughter and gross child neglect.

I can see, though reluctantly, that some sort of neglect charge may have been appropriate. But the involuntary manslaughter charge is such overkill as to suggest a culture-war subtext. Ebert says he "agonized" over whether the file criminal charges at all. My butt he did: one doesn't agonize over whether to charge -- and then charge to the max.

In Virginia, Commonwealth's Attorneys are elected, and they (or, as in Ebert's case, their sons) sometimes try for higher office. So remember the name. Ebert. Ebert. Ebert.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002
Weekend lessons
(Caution: a lot here about cars)

Sorry for the long weekend away from the blog. I figured the Con-Law blogathon of late last week would keep most readers busy for a while.

Anyway, here's what I learned this past weekend:

* If you must drive a car with automatic transmission, be aware that if the car "shudders" through the lower gears, and seems seriously lacking in torque while in (what it considers) first gear, this means your transmission is in trouble -- trouble it would never be in if it were manual.

* Car fluids are color-coded. Engine coolant, I seem to remember, is yellowish-green. Automatic transmission fluid, I found out this weekend, is red -- like Robitussin, only thinner. There's no mistaking it when a pool of it accumulates under your car.

* Tiny, independent, all-purpose car repair shops owned and run by guys with names like Jack or Vic rule. By comparison, dealerships and chains are a risk. Perhaps the reason is that the independent guys live or die by customer loyalty, so they have to treat you right. Not that the dealerships and chains don't like repeat business, but, being interchangeable with other shops under the same sign, they see less of it, and so are more focused on getting the most bucks out of each job. Yes, I've gotten good service out of some dealerships and chains (Jiffy-Lube is OK for oil changes and other very basic maintenance, and it's very convenient), but I've gotten to know two really great independents, and I now feel pretty sure there are lots more like them out there.

So, if you ever have car trouble in the vicinity of Cincinnati, you want Snyder's Auto Service -- Jack W. Snyder -- 1002 Harrison Ave., Harrison, OH, 4503 -- 513-367-4008.

And if it's in southern Delaware that your car decides to trim your Purgatory for you, you want A-1 Vic's Auto and Towing -- Vic Thomas -- 18092 Repair Lane (Vic got to name the street himself, seeing as it's his driveway, and the 911 people said he had to give it a name), on Route 113, Georgetown, DE -- 302-856-1779 or 302-249-2168.

Also, join the AAA. That's how I found Vic.