Saturday, March 8

Actually, I think it's ad hominem (ad + the accusative of homine, to the man). Or maybe I'm being obtuse and hominum is neuter, which does make more sense. Nevermind.

So maybe I was right about the Latin.

Anyway, about the whole thing.

Eric's right; it's an ad hominem attack and it doesn't say the first thing about the merits of an argument from the Vatican - or anyone else - against the war.

I also understand what Brent's saying. I hesitate to characterize "the Church" as a monolithic entity, but when an institution of its kind makes an effort to influence the actions of a government, it's not just making an argument. It's making an appeal based on its own power and perceived moral authority. This isn't a debate, in the formal, rhetorical sense, and I don't think anyone truly expects its outcomes to be based on a logical evaluation of opposing arguments.

This is what sometimes makes me uncomfortable with dismissing things as ad hominem (or as appeals to authority, whatever the Latin term is). Yes, it is a logical fallacy to assume that the character of a speaker has bearing on the logical validity of their statements. No, it is not entirely irrational to consider the motives and history of a speaker anyway. It is certainly an almost inescapable human behavior, and short of rewiring our own brains, it is probably better taken into account than ignored.

What stirs more disagreement in me is not precisely that this is an ad hominem attack. It is that if the Vatican claims the authority it does, and sincerely believes in it, and sincerely believes that a war would be the wrong action to take, then it is obligated to do no less than make its voice strongly heard on the matter. The idea that any party must remain silent until their own sins are atoned for is sometimes a dangerous one. None of us are innocent. (OLP disagree with me, but that's a topic for another day.)

As for appalling, I think there's plenty to go around. It is appalling to watch President Bush and the powers he represents systematically dismantle as many of this country's safeguards against tyranny as they can comfortably reach. It is appalling to watch the busy construction of the mechanisms of a future police state. It is appalling to know that this is done in the name of protecting 280 million of us from terrorists and terror states whose psychotic goals could scarcely be better served than by the slow, grinding processes they have given "our" own government license to put in place.

It is appalling to see the poisonous threads of racist bullshit and lingering, clueless apology for murderous ideologies and states that twine their way through the body of opposition to Bush's war. It is appalling to watch even the well-intentioned propagandize on the behalf of a dictator, and more so that this should further inure people to the real damage being done by the present administration of the United States.

It is appalling that the Roman Catholic Church as a single continuous entity (an illusion, sure, but one no less real to many people than the idea of America) is believed to retain any moral authority whatever in the face of a thousand years' history.

(I'm not satisfied with what I've written here, but I think I'll have to rely on future stuff to clarify.)