Q&A March AD 2010
Our Lady of the Rosary
On this page:
"Closed Times" for Marriage?
Knowing God through Natural Reason
Morality of The
Great Depression (Continued)
Question: In a
recent sermon you said that in the Middle Ages people didn’t marry during
Lent. Why not? [What are “closed times”?]
is, of course, a very intimate, life-long relationship between a man and a
woman. But the family is the building block of society, and marriage
brings a new family into existence. Family, friends, the Church, and in
most places someone with civil authority are called upon to witness the
marriage—some may come from a good distance, but even if everyone lives
close by, marriage is almost always an event of joyous celebration.
Advent and Lent are traditionally penitential seasons when marriages are not
scheduled, or at least not celebrated with great festivity and the solemn
nuptial blessing of the Church.
In times past, the Church also
insisted that marriages not take place during the Christmas and Easter seasons
following Advent and Lent, so as to avoid “upstaging” these all important
feasts of our Lord. The Council of Trent (A.D. 1563) shortened
this “closed time—tempus clausus” so that it extended from Advent
through Epiphany, and Ash Wednesday trough Low Sunday:
The solemnities of marriage are prohibited at
The holy Synod enjoins, that the ancient
prohibitions of solemn nuptials be carefully observed by all, from the Advent
of our Lord Jesus Christ until the day of the Epiphany, and from Ash-Wednesday
until the octave of Easter inclusively; but at other times It allows marriage
to be solemnly celebrated; and the bishops shall take care that they be
conducted with becoming modesty and propriety: for marriage is a holy thing,
and is to be treated in a holy manner.
The 1917 Code of Canon Law
permits marriage at any time during the year, but forbids the solemn blessing
from Advent to Christmas and Ash Wednesday to Easter (both inclusive).
The bishop can dispense from even this restriction, but the parties are to be
cautioned against excessive pomp and celebration.
Question: Why is it
that we can know of the existence of God through natural reason but cannot
similarly know “mysteries” like the Trinity of God? Does our
inability to know something through natural reason in make it less true?
are no degrees of truth, but there may be degrees of the certainty with which
we believe something to be true. When we know something through natural
reason, we are said to know it “inductively.” That is to say that
our knowledge is based on our observations and those of others. For
example, the collective observations of mankind agree rather closely that
there are motion, causality, and order in the universe. From these
observations we posit a prime mover, first cause, and an ordering
intelligence. We can agree to call each of these three by the name of
“God.” Other observations will reinforce the conclusion that there
is a necessary being Who is responsible for the universe that we know.
We have a high degree of
certainty through this process of inductive reasoning, but always with the
reservation that our observations are always incomplete—we may observe
something different tomorrow, and we may have overlooked something in the
past. For example, in the natural sciences, we know that in the past
heating water has caused it to boil rather than freeze—this consistent
observation causes us to generalize this property of water, but does not
guarantee that all future observations will be consistent. Identifying
all of the variables that will influence the outcome of an experiment may be
impossible given the current “state of the art.” Variables like
material quantity and quality, temperature, and light have been recognized for
centuries--atmospheric pressure and radiation levels are more modern
developments—high velocity, mass proximity, and subatomic size, even more
so—it would be vain to assume that modern science has identified all such
While we say that we know the
truth of God’s existence through natural observation and reason with a high
degree of certitude, God has also confirmed His existence through revelation,
leaving us with absolute certainty. God has told us about Himself
through the prophets and His Divine Son, entrusting this revelation (and
others like it) to His Son’s Church.
In Old Testament times God
revealed only His existence. There was a strong emphasis in this
revelation on unity—there is only one God; “the gods of the gentiles are
There were only hints that this one God might exist in Trinity—“the Spirit
of God moving over the waters” in Genesis, the “Holy, Holy, Holy” of the
Angels in Isaias, or that prophet’s enumeration of the gifts of the Holy
But all of these hints are appreciated only in hindsight—the hindsight that
comes with revelation—the overshadowing of the Virgin Mary by the Holy
Ghost, the Father’s acknowledgement of “My Divine Son, in whom I am well
pleased,” and the Son’s statement that “I and the Father are one.”
Remember that all merely natural
reason is based on observation. Before God made such revelations there
was nothing that could be observed that would lead us to the conclusion of His
Trinity. But His revelation comes from Truth Itself, and is not limited
by any of the pitfalls of human observation. Our knowledge of the
Trinity through revelation compliments the knowledge we have of His existence
through natural reason—there is no contradiction between the two truths.
Truth never contradicts itself, no matter how it is known.
Knowing God in Trinity might be
compared with being invited into God’s inner circle—so to speak, meeting
the Divine Family, and getting to know then as we had not been able from the
[Continued from last month]
there moral aspects to the Great Depression?
A lot of people suffered for well over a decade. Shouldn’t someone be
held responsible? Can we prevent such a thing from happening again?
Answer: As we
have seen thus far, the government response to the Depression was an enormous
number of Federal programs and projects—massive spending financed with
higher taxes. With the Revenue Act of 1932
Many wartime excise taxes were
revived, sales taxes were imposed on gasoline, tires, autos, electric energy,
malt, toiletries, furs, jewelry, and other articles; admission and stock
transfer taxes were increased; new taxes were levied on bank checks, bond
transfers, telephone, telegraph, and radio messages; and the personal income
tax was raised drastically as follows: the normal rate was increased from a
range of 1½ percent-5 percent, to 4 percent-8 percent; personal exemptions
were sharply reduced, and an earned credit of 25 percent eliminated; and
surtaxes were raised enormously, from a maximum of 25 percent to 63 percent on
the highest incomes. Furthermore, the corporate income tax was increased from
12 percent to 13¾ percent, and an exemption for small corporations
eliminated; the estate tax was doubled, and the exemption floor halved; and
the gift tax, which had been eliminated, was restored, and graduated up to
By executive order in 1942, the highest marginal tax
rates would actually be raised to 100%. The incredible increase
in taxes on an incredible number of things is chronicled in Jim Powell’s FDR’s
Nor can one forget the confiscation of all monetary
gold, 0the price of which was then raised by 60% to $35. per ounce!
But with all that money taken in and spent, one has
to question how successful the government was in alleviating the
Depression—and then one has to ask whether or not the alleviation prolonged
the Depression. The employment rate is probably the most significant
indicator of the alleviation. Unemployment had been running a little
over 3% before the crash in 1929, hit 8.9% in 1930, peaked at 24.9% in 1933,
and didn’t go below 15% until the government prepared to enter World War II.
Apart from the war years it did not return to pre-crash levels until 1950—a
twenty year period.
The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is another measure
of prosperity, and its movements were pretty much the inverse of the
unemployment rate. But GDP includes government spending as a product
rather than as a cost! It includes money that has been taken away from
real economic growth.
The GDP and employment figures included expenditures
on bureaucracy, often as a means to secure party loyalty, and to make
conditions appear better in states where election outcomes were questionable.
A goodly number of people were employed as artists and writers, but art and
literature are for prosperous societies, not for the starving.
To be sure, there were real infrastructure
projects—hospitals, bridges, dams, and such—but such projects then became
a liability for the jurisdictions that had to run and maintain them.
(The first bridge across the river is immensely popular, as is the second and
maybe the third. The twelfth is laughable. And nobody wants to pay
to maintain any of them.) Some of these projects actually destroyed
private capital investments—no one can complete with the government and its
infinite money supply, even if the government allows competition, which it
doesn’t. The Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 broke up
multi-state utilities. TVA electrification in 1939 forced the
Commonwealth and Southern Company to sell assets worth $400 Million for
roughly a fifth of their value.
TVA became a notorious scofflaw, holding itself immune from the anti-pollution
lows of the states in which it operates.
This destruction of private capital, coupled with the
temporary nature of infrastructure jobs, the rise in taxes. and government
tampering with wage and price levels kept the productive economy from
recovering to pre-1929 levels for roughly two decades.
large spikes correspond to the two World Wars, but note that percentage of
government spending was about 8% before WW‑I, 11% after, and about 20%
before WW‑II. Today (2010) we approach the Second War’s peak
of 53% with "peacetime" government expenditures at 44.5% of GDP !
By any rational standard, fifteen or twenty percent
unemployment coupled with government spending twenty percent of the GDP
indicated the failure of “progressive” policies in dealing with the Great
Depression—particularly when this Depression’s length is compared with any
previous American depression. Some will argue that World War II
ended the Great Depression and brought about a new prosperity. The War
will have to wait until next month, but for the moment, think of the folly in
the idea that the War ended the Depression.
Yes, the War brought unemployment down to two-percent
or so, but look at how people were employed! Something like 11 Million
were members of the US Military, 3 to 4 hundred thousand did not return, and
twice that number were wounded.
They lived in trenches and tents, eating C‑rations, in well reasoned
fear for their lives. Back at home the women were making tanks, battleships,
and every other accoutrement of war. They had to have ration coupons for
butter, sugar, meat, gasoline, tires, coffee, cheese, shoes, and so forth—if
and when these things were available.
The direct cost to the United States alone is
estimated at $288 Billion in 1940s dollars (est. 4-9 Trillion in
today’s dollars!) Some 60 Million died world wide. Only God
knows how much damage was done to public and private property, some of it
irreplaceable at any price.
The economist Frederick Bastiat coined the phrase
“broken window fallacy” to describe the notion that destruction brings
prosperity: A vandal throws a brick through the shopkeeper’s window,
causing the shopkeeper to hire a glassier to replace the window for $500.
The glassier, in turn, spends the $500 in the local economy, causing the
foolish to remark that the vandalism was good for the economy. The
fallacy, of course, is that the shopkeeper is $500 poorer and will not be able
to spend that money on the things he wanted from the local economy, like a new
suit and set of matching luggage. Bastiat didn’t say it, but the
economy would positively damaged if the shopkeeper had been injured or even
killed by the brick (as many were during the war.)
One also must question the moral damage done
to a world content to wage war by destroying entire populations together with
the cities in which they lived—“Sherman’s march to the sea” on a
[To be continued]