XXVIII – Everything I Just Said Was Wrong (No. 2)

I only started reading Zippy after I learned he passed away. So I’ve only been scratching the tip of the iceberg of his full body of work. So my discussion about his views of voting has been hindered somewhat, as T. Morris appropriately intimated in a comment on a previous post. I discovered two articles from Zippy, and an affirming analysis on Orthosphere, that I wanted to explore and condense into Scoots Layman TermsTM and then attempt to refute using what discussions I’ve already had, if they are still salvageable.

Zippy: Virtue’s Silver Medalist
Zippy: The Bus Stops Here (Originally a comment on the preceding, with some added info)
Ortho: Render Unto Caesar

Before I get too deep, my ‘victory condition’ is this: Either I am satisfied that my refutation of Zippy’s thesis is adequate and I can successfully defend that thesis; OR I grok his ideas enough to follow them and ease my troubled conscience. But my argument must thread the needle of having not been addressed by any of his prior refutations, AND must also adequately address those common disagreements.

So, without further ado: lets Dig in!

The Bus Stops

I’m going to start here because this is a summary and provides a rubric for evaluating. He also helpfully includes refutations to common disagreements, some of which I’m embarrassed to say I have leaned on.

Zippy organizes his arguments about not voting in a sequential order he refers to as ‘Bus Stops’. Each stop has a premise. If you disagree with that premise, you can get off the bus. If you make it to the end, you agree with Zippy about not voting. Lets tackle them in order.

The First Stop: We have an obligation to avoid mortal sin. This one is fairly straight forward, and I need to eat crow a bit. Because Zippy is not saying that voting is mortal sin in and of itself, and that is how I have been characterizing his arguments. I am wrong. He agrees with me that voting is not formal cooperation with sin, and thus whether one should vote is a prudential judgement. That implies intent matters, and I believe Zippy’s thesis is that people’s intent is focusing on the wrong thing. That’s not material to this bus stop. if you agree that whether or not one should vote is a prudential judgement, you can remain on the bus.

The Second Stop: So voting is a prudential judgement. What does that mean, exactly? This stop is all about what it doesn’t mean. Prudential Judgement isn’t a free pass to come to whatever conclusion your heart desires. As Zippy describes it, Prudence is right-liberal code for the left-liberal idea of ‘conscience’, and both treat it like an unquestionable sacrament. Prudential Judgement doesn’t mean “it’s subjective and therefore I am free to decide”. If you agree that prudential judgement is a call to raise the analytical bar for your decision making, you can stay on the bus.

The Third Stop: The Church doesn’t require us to vote. This follows logically from the first and second stops. The Church is simply silent on how you participate in your local government, whatever form that government may be. It is not a moral choice, and it is not a blank check. If you agree that the Church has no guidance on whether or not to vote, you can stay on the bus.

The Fourth Stop: This is a bit more of a logical leap from the Third Stop. Zippy describes elections as game-theoretic contests and civic rituals which have negligible impact on the outcome of the election. The Church makes no statements about exercises of game theory, nor does it comment regarding forms of governance, so it’s up to our prudential judgement. Our prudential judgement MUST take into consideration the outcomes. Zippy says our action (voting) has no material outcome-dependent effects, and thus cannot be a pragmatic act. It must be idealistic because it is the hope for some outcome without any reasonable expectation of achieving it because you took that action. If you agree that your vote has no correlation to whether the desired outcome is achieved, you can stay on the bus.

The Fifth Stop: Because there are no outcome dependent expectations to effect change by voting; and all the outcome-independent effects apply to everyone whether they vote or not, there is no proportionate reason to vote, and at this level, any reason, however trivial, to vote is negated by the presence of Scandal. Zippy even says there are enough people that are formally cooperating by intentionally voting for abortionists that scandal applies at the very first bus stop. If you agree that, since your vote doesn’t matter, there is no reason to vote and that if you vote at all, it causes scandal, then you can stay on the bus.

You Have Arrived: If you made it this far, you agree with Zippy Catholic, and you probably don’t vote.

Selected Objections

Objections by Ignorance

The first three objections on Zippy’s list of ten deal with people being fundamentally wrong about the purpose or consequence of voting. No, voting is not a license to complain. People that live in a society can complain about that society. No, the Church doesn’t say you have to vote. No, the government isn’t illegitimate and the non-voter isn’t a traitor. These are simple. I refer you to Zippy’s more detailed discussions of those arguments.

Objections by Misunderstanding

No. 4 on his list is a misunderstanding I myself was laboring under: “Aren’t you saying that everyone who votes will go to hell?” – No, that’s not what he’s saying at all. Those who vote intentionally for abortionists are formally cooperating in evil and as such are committing mortal sin. Those who don’t vote or who vote against evil are sufficiently removed to be considered remote, and thus the act of voting falls under the purview of prudential judgement (See Bus Stop #1).

No. 5 is addressed in Bus stop #2 – it’s not license to do whatever you want. Prudential Judgement calls you to a higher bar.

No. 6 is an objection I labor under and reserve the right to continue to do so. The objection is that “If enough people do as you do, then the bad guys will win!”. Zippy argues (poorly paraphrased through my limited understanding) that right-liberal conservatives do more to preserve the evil institutions than the evil institutions themselves. The issue here is with the idea ‘bad guys’ but I do still think there is a point here. I will elaborate later on.

Objections by Fallacy

No. 7 is objection by the fallacy that morality is supposed to be simple and easy. Appeal to ignorance, in other words: These ideas are worth exploring, and shouldn’t be dismissed because they are difficult. That’s why you come here, and let me do all the footwork to try to translate and help you understand!

No. 8 is a re-casting of Error No. 2, trying to put responsibility on the church for your actions of voting. The church is intentionally silent, prudential judgement requires us to evaluate for ourselves.

No. 9 is a fallacy by false comparison: Legislators have options, but we are voting for presidents and legislators, we can and should be more discerning, or (as zippy argues) just not vote! The exceptions for legislators do not apply to us.

Objections by Ad-Hominem

No. 10 is the accusation that Zippy is a sociopathic nut, which I don’t agree with. Zippy is many things but crazy is not one of them. He has a strong sense of Ethics and we have a lot to learn from him. My whole blog is essentially me trying to study at his feet, posthumously. So this isn’t valid.

Scoots Rebuttal

I believe Zippy has created a false premise. Taken as a whole, it is hard–nay, impossible! to see value in voting. If you have 120 million people voting, and one person does or does not, what’s it matter? Zippy’s thoughts on voting I believe can be condensed to three broad points.

1- There is no practical reason to vote.

2- The system itself is a bad system (dare I say, an evil one), and should not be encouraged.

3- Scandal destroys any remaining reasons that may exist to vote.

Finding a Reason

The idea that I will propose to rebut Zippy’s methodology is that he is looking from the top down at voting as a whole. Personally, I believe that is an antiseptic approach and depersonalizes our participation in government. Government is not transactional, per se, all interactions do not have to be weighed by cost/benefit.

The catechism suggests that a persons deeds are weighed according to circumstance, if we assume that the rubric for mortal sin applies to other deeds as well. Is the matter grave? Is the deed made with knowledge of the grave matter? Is the deed made with full consent of the will (culpability)?

God values each person, individually. So I think it is fair that we can evaluate voting on a personal, micro scale.

When I was discussing this with my friend and brain trust, he presented the following scenario:

Let’s say there is a geyser outside a town that is flooding it with water and destroying it. Each of us drops pebbles in the geyser and eventually it fills up and saves the town.

I added the following modification:

A crowd gathers at the geyser and some people throw pebbles in and some fish pebbles out, and there’s no way of knowing the ratio of pebbles in to pebbles out.

Imperfect though the analogy may be, voting is like throwing the pebbles in. There’s no real way to tell if you’re doing any good, your pebbles could be the only ones being fished out. But throwing the pebble is doing an iota of good. Zippy seems to be saying that it is preferable to not participate in something without certainty about positive outcomes, and would rather you do something actually helpful like find a boulder to put in the geyser. In this case, not voting is predicated on the substitution. You’ll note that Zippy is not saying that voting is inherently bad, but rather that there is so little good that its indiscernible from the base noise distribution. But I would argue that God can discern, and if the amount of good is not zero then there is an iota of good. Is there MORE good that can be done through other means? Yes, absolutely. But I would argue that not voting deprives the system of that iota of good unless it is substituted with something which is known to effect more good.

You might argue that this looks like an elaborate version of Objection No. 6, that “if you don’t vote then the bad guys win”. I draw the distinction that i’m not arguing that not voting causes negative outcomes; I’m saying that not voting deprives positive inputs. No good can happen if no one does good. Bad things CAN happen if no one does good, but for good things to happen, people need to do good things. For bad things to happen, people need to do bad things.

Claiming that there is no practical reason to vote, then, is to ignore some fundamental information. It ignores first that voting does offer an iota of good. It ignores that voting is the only mechanism at our disposal to effectuate positive civil outcomes unless we do something else, which Zippy does not prescribe (an omission which neither helps or hurts his case). This is my retort to the idea that there is no practical reason to vote.

A Bad System

“How do you vote against voting” is a quip I saw from a commenter in one of the articles. This is where prudential judgement comes in. Zippy’s judgement is that he should not vote, my judgement might be that I should. Zippy and I already agree that voting is remote, non necessary participation, and either voting or not voting is a negligible difference. If the system itself is EVIL then we are obliged to overthrow it. But the system is not inherently evil. The people who use it might be, in some cases. So to rebut claims that the system is bad or broken or evil, I would simply point to my earlier article or even to Zippys own: We are distant enough from cooperating that it is negligible.

You might argue that this looks like an elaborate version of Objection No. 5, that ‘prudential judgement’ means we can do whatever we want. If we accept the premise that Voting can contribute some good, and not voting doesn’t contribute any good through that mechanism, regardless of outcome, between those two options taken independently, the one that contributes some good is preferable. If there is a mechanism for contributing more civil good into the system of Government, then let us know and we can do that instead of voting!

The Price of Scandal

I already kind of addressed this in my article about the proximity and necessity of cooperation. Scandal only happens when people know what you did, and what you did is or is perceived to be out of line with Catholic values. Anonymously standing in line at a polling place doesn’t inflict scandal. Not talking about your vote, or casting aspersions on other votes doesn’t invite scandal. If you want to talk about politics, it might be best to not vote. If you don’t care about talking or don’t want to, you can. But if you accept my previous premises, both options are equal in terms of prudential judgement.

In Conclusion

Sitting atop a democracy, looking down at all the people, it can be hard to perceive the marginal value of a single vote. But God judges us all individually. A single good deed might not do anything to save the world, but at least it is a good deed. I believe a single vote, too, can contribute an iota of good into a system which has many faults. Enough of those votes can perhaps effectuate some kind of positive outcome. But it requires us to first believe that voting contributes good and second that we can convince others of this fact. Zippy, believing that a single vote can’t rise above the signal noise baseline, finds it to be impractical and with deleterious effects in the form of scandal or endorsement/participation in a system which is broken. However, the system itself is not inherently evil, and we can do good to counter the evil through means other than voting. But if Voting is a means of effectuating some good, even if just an iota, then I believe we should utilize it.

I set out my victory condition as either accepting Zippy’s thesis, or crafting a rebuttal which threads the needle in his already thoroughly reasoned argument. Zippy (God rest his soul) probably would disagree with me on the basis that I don’t answer the signal noise problem; but I don’t believe I have to. We will probably remain at odds!

Please let me know what you think of my reasoning and point out where you feel it is lacking. I invite criticism, to either encourage me to strengthen my argument or to force me to abandon it and accept Zippy’s argument.





In this series I will be explicitly comparing two empires, to inform an implicit comparison with a third. I will be looking at historical patterns of society and political principles that guide them. The explicit subjects of this series will be the United States of America and Ancient Rome. The implicit subject is the Catholic Church and Christendom.

How can you compare Rome to the USA?

The United States and Rome are valuable points of comparison. The former because it is a current political power with global influence and a historical arc that has taken it through many forms of de facto government, though it’s de jure government has remained the same. Rome shared with the USA many traits, including global influence, some form of democratic politics, and political evolutions over time. Rome is, perhaps, the best documented of the Ancient Empires, and so serves as an effective baseline for comparison. Always the question must be asked: Is this circumstance unique to Rome, or can it be properly applied to a contemporary political power? This will be be baseline for my consideration through this series.

And how does the Church come in?

Once some principles are established that can be shown to apply to two disparate political systems separated by time and space, I will attempt to apply those principles to a political-religious system which bridges the time and space between both political powers. The Church, after all, is manned by Men, and therefore is subject to the same challenges of an empire, with the distinct difference that ultimate authority is unquestionably derived from God. The Church can get sick, even die and be given new life. But the point of authority is not subject to our temporal whims. Determining what principles exist and how they apply will be essential in understanding how to tackle issues in the Church, and aid consideration of political regimes today and into the future.

Fundamental Assumptions

To begin at the beginning, we must ensure we have a common understanding of definitions and assumptions that will go into this analysis.

Regarding forms of government:

Anarchy – absence of rule. An (lack) + Arkhein (to rule). This word will be used to describe any system which is ungoverned.

Monarchy – rule by one person. Monos (Alone) + Arkhein (to rule). This word will be used to describe any system which is ultimately governed by one person.

Republic – Rule by representatives. Res (regarding) + Publica (the public), i.e. ‘regarding the people’. This word will be used to describe any system which is ultimately governed by a small group of people.

Democracy – Rule by the people. Demos (common people) + kratos (rule, strength), i.e. ‘rule of the common people’. This word will be used to describe any system which is ultimately governed by the populace.

Regarding the type of governance:

Empire – Dominion of an Emperor. in (in) + parare (order, prepare), i.e. ‘to put in order’. This word will be used to characterize the type of governance, regardless of rule, as centralized and highly structured.

Federal – Covenant / Treaty. From Foederis (treaty or alliance). This word will be used in the context of ‘federalism’, that is, to characterize the type of governance, regardless of rule, as distributed and decentralized.

Regarding the people who govern:

Sovereign – the one who rules

Tyrant – A cruel or unjust sovereign

Lyrant – A compassionate or just sovereign (invented word)

Regarding means of governance:

Authority – Capacity to oblige a subject to make a specific choice.

Validity – Following the form prescribed by an authority

Licity – being permitted by authority

Legitimacy – Authority which is validly and licitly transferred by a higher authority.

Power – the actual ability to oblige specific outcomes

Enforcement – The power associated with authority to offer incentives and penalties for compliance/noncompliance with authority.

Fidelity – the duty of authority to exercise power in a way that is valid and licit.

Tyranny – the invalid and/or illicit exercise of power / the state of infidelity of an authority In violation of spiritual law and sometimes in violation of civil law.


In addition to the above definitions, I will also be assuming the Human nature remains the same across time. I will be assuming that what we commonly refer to as “Rights” are really things that fall under Natural Law (Things granted to us directly from God) and things that fall under privileges (Things that government lets us do). I will also not be assuming that what a government is called (it’s de jure government) has any correlation for what a government is (it’s de facto government).

Setting the Stage

Roman history is known to have gone through several periods. When Rome as we know it was founded, it was a Kingdom (753 – 509 BC). Then followed the Republic (509 – 27 BC). When Caesar crossed the Rubicon and took control, so began the Empire period (27 BC – 395 AD). Thereafter Rome began a period of Decline, where the West utterly collapsed in the early 400’s and the East (Byzantium) steadily degraded until it succumbed to the Ottomans in 1453. This traces the de jure history of Rome. At the end of each epoch, there was not a discrete transition. The transformation to Empire began during the republic; the foreshadowing of the decline can be seen at the peak of Roman power. The facts of Rome, it’s nature during these periods, are what tell us about the patterns of it’s subjects and sovereigns.

American history is closer in both time and space and thus subject to the vicissitudes of contemporary bias. Historians categorize American history thus: The Colonial Period (15th century to the American Revolution). There followed the Republic, from victory in the Revolutionary war to the War of 1812. Then what I will call the “Civil War Era” which includes the antebellum (1812-1861), Civil War (1861-1865) and Reconstruction (1865-1914) periods. Following the Civil War Era is the period of American Supremacy, from the outbreak of the First World War, through World War Two, and including the nuclear age through the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The current age has not yet matured so I will call the period from 1991 to the present the ‘Post-Cold War Era’.

This is how I will continue my analysis. In the next part, we will begin our dive into the comparisons between the United States and Rome.


(c) Parable of the Flock

Wild sheep graze on a hill. It is rough and barren forage. One among them discovers a path through a thicket. He finds greener pastures! But it is kept by a kindly Shepherd. He tries to steal the thick green forage, but the Shepherd shoos him away. Only when he approaches the Shepherd, and lets the Shepherd care for him, will the Shepherd let him forage. His fellows from the flock come to see where he’s been. “Come!” He says. “Look at how green this pasture is! If you’ll only accept the kindly Shepherd, you can graze with me!”

The flock turn their noses. No Shepherd is worth such forage. Far better to be free. Unkempt. Struggling through the rough and barren forage. They turn and leave, angry at their former flockmate for abandoning them.

He turns to the Shepherd, sad to be without his friends and family. What good is green forage if it cannot be shared? The Shepherd is kind, he loves and cares for his flock. Why do they fear and reject him?

But no prophet is accepted in his own country.

XXVI – Westphalian Sovereignty of the Individual

I read an article on this platform that disturbed me. I will not link to it here, to protect the innocent and avoid scandal. The article made reference to being both Catholic and Gay. A part of me wanted to flee, but since they were posting publicly I felt obliged to comment. I stated plainly that I disagreed, and that I would like to engage them in a conversation about our respective views: I felt my obligation to fraternal correction exceeded my desire to do nothing. Doing nothing would be remote, non necessary, negative cooperation. Saying something is at least not cooperating.

Before I get to deep, I would like to point out that this is likely not an isolated phenomenon. I am sure there are more people in the world who would describe themselves as both Catholic and Gay, and they are in need of our prayers and Gods mercy. Please pray a decade of the rosary with the intention of Homosexuals within the Church, and for all homosexuals, that the Holy Spirit might move their hearts to commit to the vocation of Chastity and convert their hearts, that they might follow more closely the example of Christ.

Consider the Following

The words we use are very important, especially the words we use to describe ourselves. To self describe oneself as Catholic has certain connotations that one accepts the teachings of Christ and is committed to re-enacting the sacrifice of Christ every week, and then consuming his body and blood in communion with Him. To self describe oneself as Gay also has certain connotations, which includes that one is sexual active and the partners one chooses are the same gender as oneself.

We see this problem with homosexuals in the priesthood: If they self identified as priests first, their sexual orientation wouldn’t matter because they would have committed to chastity, as is required by their vocation. Homosexuality is appended to another identification, over and above. The author of this article is Catholic–but not just any Catholic, a gay Catholic.

must be unequivocal on this point. Homosexuality is a sin which cries out to God for vengeance. It is inherently disordered, in violation of natural law: theological refutations come secondary to the fact that homosexuality violates nature. If a person is committed to Catholic as an identity and, more importantly, as a label of unity with Christ in the body of the Church, one must recognize homosexuality as a sin and be committed to amending ones life.

Westphalian Sovereignty of the Individual

All of this is a secondary (though important) prelude to a bigger problem. The challenge is that our classically liberal society believes man has an inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Self determination, in other words. A classically liberal perspective views all people as free agents. Actually, it might be accurate to use a term from chemistry: All people are viewed as free radicals. A free radical is an uncharged molecule with an unpaired valence electron–that is to say, it is looking for something to cling to with that electron. Citizens then, by that analogy, are able to align themselves with whatever government they prefer, but they are free to choose. The Social Contract is an ‘opt-in’ contract, in other words.

This is the fallacy presented by Classical Liberalism. Before we are citizens of nations, we are citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. This is not even an opt-out contract. We are either in compliance with the new and eternal covenant with God, or we are out of compliance. We must subordinate our wills to God, because we must submit to the will of the King.

The disunity between what we want (as fallen creatures), and what we must do (as citizens of a Kingdom), creates cognitive dissonance that comes in many forms. In the case of the article which began this commentary, that person wants to be homosexual, but knows it is a sin. They chafe at people being uncomfortable around them, or calling them ‘dangerous’. They can’t have their cake and eat it too: You are either in compliance with the laws of the Kingdom, or you are out of compliance.


XXV – Give unto Caesar your Rose Colored Glasses

We’re going to approach a complex topic in a roundabout way.

A Reality Filter is a concept coined by Scott Adams, defined as a way of viewing the world that helps you easily contextualize and understand it. Of course, a reality filter is only as good as the eye that beholds it, and a Reality Filter is only good for understanding things a certain way. An Atheist has a different reality filter than a Catholic, a Left Liberal has a different reality filter than a Right Liberal. My reality filter is different from yours.

A reality filter is a means to an end. With this in mind, my recent article on Legitimacy and the core concepts that make legitimacy work serves as an important reality filter for figuring out where authority comes from. We can use this reality filter to break down questions of authority and legitimacy.

Follow the Rubric Road

Lets imagine a venn diagram, with the two overlapping circles. Make one of them smaller, and push it most of the way into the bigger one. This smaller one contains all things pertaining to civil life. The larger one contains all things pertaining to spiritual life. If Church and State were unified, our civil leaders would fall squarely within the area of overlap, because they would accept their responsibility as both spiritual and civil. You don’t just want to lead a positive society, you want to make positive people.

Separation of church and State segregates the leaders. It moves the spiritual leader to the ‘spiritual life’ side of the diagram; and the civil leader is removed to the tiny space outside of the spiritual life.

Considering a nation like the United States of America, current civil leaders are not responsible for their own separation from their spiritual responsibilities. As such, Civil Society can be said to be distinct from spiritual society, but they both have a common cause in what is known as the ‘common good’.

Tyranny is a term that describes the condition of the leader, in whichever sphere. A civil tyrant is one who is cruel or unjust or illegitimate in his exercise of his civil authority. A spiritual tyrant is likewise cruel or unjust or illegitimate in his exercise of spiritual authority. One could argue that unification of Church and State means one person could do twice the damage, but that’s really still the case with a civil leader. While a civil leader lacks the explicit authority to act on spiritual matters, they do have a responsibility as a steward of spiritual affairs of their subjects. Therefore a civil tyrant can do damage in both spheres.

Tyranny then, defined as cruel or unjust or illegitimate exercise of authority, has implicitly a civil and spiritual component. Tyranny is the violation of civil and spiritual law. A true tyranny must violate both.

Consider a ruler who violates civil law but is in unity with spiritual law. In order to be in unity with spiritual law, it necessarily implies that the civil laws were unjust. While they might violate civil law, they could still be said to be acting for the common good.

Consider a ruler who violates spiritual law, but is in unity with the civil law. Their deeds are illicit, but valid. They probably cannot be said to be acting for the common good, but they cannot be said to be behaving illegally.

I’ll amend the definition then. A true Tyranny must be in violation of spiritual law, and can be in violation of civil law.

Consider a ruler who violates spiritual law, and is in violation of civil law but subsequently amends the law. The overriding factor is the moral element, their violation of spiritual law. Tyranny then is defined by violation with some authority other than the civil law.

Potential and Kinetic Virtue

We have an obligation, as spiritual creatures, to grow in holiness and virtue. Our civil obligation is obedience where it is in compliance with spiritual law. Spiritual law supersedes all others. So when we are told to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, that is an admonition to respect the sliver of civil authority which is exclusively exercised by civil leaders. To obey the civil authority, but obey them second. Obeying the letter of the law is not virtuous in and of itself, but if the law is formed by virtue, it drives people to virtue.

Potential energy is when an object is at rest, kinetic energy is when an object is in motion. So too with Virtue: When a person is not motivated to be virtuous, they will remain the way they are, whatever state they happen to be in. The civil law ought to motivate kinetic virtue, to make people be active and change their state of virtue and holiness. The civil authority, however, is that of steward and not that of sovereign over the individual. So their authority over a ‘person’ is partial. Only spiritual leadership has authority over an entire person. Disunity of Church and State also means disunity of authority over persons within a nation. They can, but do not always, take the position of rivals. This is further evidence that a Civil authority has a responsibility to promote virtue: it prevents and even inoculates against being placed in rivalry with a spiritual authority, and creates stability with the authority that they wield.

Where do We Stand?

This reality filter helps us understand that civil authority does not always have to be in union with spiritual authority, though the disunity between the two does create some instability. A nation would be aided if Church and State were united, but a nation can succeed without. It must be acknowledged that the conditions for tyranny are more readily available when Church and State are separate, and is liable to be more dangerous. This helps us focus our definition of tyranny, but does not help us answer the question of redress, or even help us apply this definition to contemporary society and the complex problems therein.

More to come.


XXIV – A Prelude to a Bigger Discussion

Kristor Says, in response to a question of mine on a backdated article:

“Can a government that separates church and state be said to have ever had the mandate of heaven?”

Only by accident. By analogy, we can do the will of God, and enact his Providential plan for the created order, even when we sin; for, our deluded clouded desires can happen to congrue with the divine will.

“How do we reconcile a secular society with our spiritual obligations?”

Render unto Caesar.

“Can a government which does not uphold a responsibility to promote virtue be considered a Tyranny?”

I don’t think so. In practice, every government upholds some vision of the good. This is so even of tyrannical governments. It is true also of governments that profess amorality. In practice, there is no such thing as amorality, except among dead bodies. For, some means of parsing moral decisions – which is to say, simply, decisions per se – is needed in order to proceed with the conduct of life, ergo of government.

“What is our obligation to address [an “amoral” government]?”

Render unto Caesar.

T. Morris Says, in response to an article of mine, here:

Now ask yourself this question: “What proportion or percentage of today’s electorate is well versed in classical literature?” and let that be your answer as to how insane the whole concept of “one man, one vote” universal suffrage is.
Meanwhile (and this is getting into some of the finer points), when a man or woman votes in our elections (or even when (s)he registers to vote in our elections), (s)he is lending a sense of legitimacy to an illegitimate process that is rigged to produce a certain kind of result from the gitgo. Meanwhile as well, (s)he is participating in evil, but (s)he usually doesn’t know (s)he is participating in evil, so to that extent the sin is not chargeable to him/her. But to those who are aware that the system is rigged, that it is illegitimate and therefore evil, participation therein – lending such a system credibility – is sin. So just keep that in mind if ever you are told that it is somehow your “Christian duty” to vote in our elections. Nonsense! The truth of the matter is that it is highly highly probable, due to reasons aforesaid and others I can’t get into at this moment, that your Christian duty as far as voting in our elections goes, is to not participate. Hence the post title.
Were the franchise limited in a way or ways that makes sense, I might consider participating in our elections again, if in fact I were deemed qualified. Democracy is clearly an illegitimate form of government, to my mind, because it is nothing short of mob rule, and mob rule can only serve the common good by mere chance or happenstance. Our system *might have been* more legitimate when it actually incorporated the federal principle and subsidiarity, but that all ended with Northern victory in the Civil War, albeit it took some time (decades) to eliminate the federal principle *in actual practice*. Nevertheless, that was always the goal (to eliminate the federal principle altogether); what we modern Americans refer to as the “federal government” is a national government, there is nothing federal about it; and a purely national government is in fact a tyranny in a country like the United States because the various States (and the peoples who inhabit them) can in no way govern themselves unless given permission from on high, which is to say from the national government. Hence, we *must* accept the wholesale murder of the unborn as some sort of fundamentally inviolable human right; we *must* accept homosexuality and other forms of freakish anti-social behavior as yet another inviolable human right. And so on and so forth. No State or local government may declare any of this as the self-destructive insanity that it is and refuse to participate in it, and your participation or my participation (or anyone else’s participation, for that matter) is never going to change that.

He continues:

At VFR the subject of limiting the franchise was discussed on numerous occasions, and the consensus view amongst that learned group, in my recollection, was that the franchise should be limited to net taxpayers. Which is to say persons who pay more in real taxes than they derive in government benefits. This would exclude retired military men since, as with any other government profession, professional soldiers generally receive a great deal more in “compensation” over the course of their lifetimes than they contribute in actual taxes. So there is a very real and ever-present conflict of interests within that community. But I think the consensus view was even more specific, or limiting, than net taxpayers, in that it also stipulated that only married men who are also net taxpayers should be given the ‘sacred franchise.’
The issue of whether or not one is a net taxpayer is sort of complex in a sense, and people have a very hard time understanding it in my experience. But it is fairly obvious, at least to my mind, that he who is employed in public sector work, from whence he derives all of, or at least the great bulk of, his income and related benefits, cannot possibly be a net taxpayer, quite the contrary.
So you see that limiting the franchise to married men who are in fact net taxpayers would, at least in theory and to a great extent, eliminate the conflict of interests problem that is pervasive under the current “one man, one vote” ideology.

Quick Thoughts In Response:

  1. One of the fundamental assumptions of the Tyranny Problem is that an immoral government is Tyranny. Kristor questions the assumption in my reasoning.
  2. T. Morris suggests one solution is limiting suffrage in some way
  3. T. Morris adds additional information to the idea I originally discovered at Zippy Catholic, that voting is a sin.

Questions I mean to answer:

  1. What is the root of authority for a Democracy, following the rubrick of the chain of authority described here?
  2. What is the responsibility of a citizen in a nation which is, at worst, a tyranny; at best, immoral?
  3. Can we envision a perfect solution, using our hypothetical states of Edeny and Anakay?
  4. Having answered these, does it fit the Catholic Sociological ideas of Distributism? Where are the discrepancies?

These ideas are nebulous and I need to precipitate them. Big thank you to Kristor and T. Morris for adding kindling to my philosophical fire.


XXIII – Letter From The Editor

Happy New Year!

Happy new year, my friends. My first post, the first Letter From The Editor, was published one month ago today. Since then I have published twenty two articles on a number of topics, had excellent discussions with some interesting people. And that is all just a taste.

I stash ideas for articles in my ‘draft posts’ and, I tell you, I have plenty. I will continue exploring ideas, sounding off on things that matter to me, and generally just writing to help myself understand what to make of this crazy world we live in. The Times Dispatch will continue reporting from behind enemy lines here on Vichy Earth.

A New Year, a New Idea

Someone suggested that, during the new year, it would be a good idea to decide on a word to give the year a theme. In that same conversation, someone else suggested a Saint to emulate as well.

I will try to do this for myself on a personal level as well, but I think I will do it for my blog also. This blog is under the patronage of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and, implicitly, the Divine Heart of Our Blessed Mother. 2019 will be the year of St. Athanasius The Great, he of the famous saying, “Athanasius Contra Mundi” or “Athanasius against the World”.

St. Athanasius stood firm in a time when the Church was troubled, when the whole of Christendom seemed to succumb to the heresy of Arianism, Athanasius stood strong. The Church is only beginning a new wave of troubles; and we as individuals must also hold strong to the core deposit of faith that has been passed to us.

St Athanasius, Pray for us.

Thank you all, God bless you, AMDG


XXI – The Worst Participation Trophies

In order to address the Tyranny problem, we need to tackle problems up-stream, namely problems with the Government and the source of it’s authority and legitimacy. We must also tackle problems down-stream, namely a citizens participation in that government.

The specific question at hand is whether participation in Tyranny is sinful. The broader question is what our obligation is to address a tyranny. This article will more closely address the former than the latter, but it is a fitting reminder of where we are in the process.

A Helpful Reminder

In order to avoid sin, we must understand what sin is. Mortal sin has three elements.

  1. Grave subject matter
  2. Full knowledge and awareness that a given deed is, in fact, a sin and awareness of the gravity of that sin.
  3. Deliberate and complete consent to commit that sin.

But let us not be confused: A sin is a sin every time. Not checking one of these three boxes does not make it NOT a sin, it just reduces culpability. For example, a teenager inadequately formed in faith may commit a sin. They cannot be said to have full knowledge and awareness of the sin. They are less culpable. But they still committed a grave offense. When the teenager is made aware of the gravity of the sin, they would then be obliged to stop and amend their life; they would be held responsible for the full weight of the sin if they commit it again. There are many other mitigating factors as well, which we will discuss in part here.

Before we do, there is an additional element: the element of Scandal. One must avoid not just the near occasion of sin, but also the appearance of sin. Chaste cohabitation between male and female roommates may be without fault, but fellow Catholics may believe they are living as an unmarried couple in a state of sin. Non-Catholics may also get a mistaken impression of what it means to be Catholic. These reactions for others are foreseeable and you are responsible for knowingly causing these reactions, causing scandal.

With this helpful reminder, lets dig in.

The Ladder of Cooperation

Authors Note: This  and subsequent sections are almost exclusively informed from this link, with a Q&A answered by a priest. It is a bit of a word salad, so my writing here is intended as a laymans summary of the somewhat heavy jargon of the aforementioned link.

We are principally concerned with the spiritual state of other parties to sin. To help inform understanding, it helps to have a common scenario that we can use to fill and inform the many definitions that we will be adding to our dictionary.

For this scenario, we will use the scenario of a man robbing a bank.

Mortal Sin: Robbing a bank is a mortal sin. The robber has committed the mortal sin of larsony, in violation of the commandment ‘Thou shalt not steal.’

Formal Cooperation in mortal sin: An associate who stands guard outside the bank. This person has not robbed the bank nor harmed any individual, they simply stood outside the bank while the robbery took place. However, their intention is united to the Robber, and their presence facilitated the robbery. They have Formally Cooperated in the sin, and thus share in the culpability for that sin.

Immediate Material Cooperation in mortal sin: This is essentially a distinction without a difference, there are few and rare cases in which this would not be considered Formal Cooperation. I am listing it here because it is on the website, and I lack the expertise to more clearly draw a distinction. For all intents and purposes, we can consider this Formal Cooperation.

Mediate Material Cooperation in mortal sin: Neither doing the act nor even especially intending the act, but providing some peripheral assistance or preparation. If a friend of the robbers agreed to give the robbers a lift, without knowing or intending on that day to participate in a robbery, but actually facilitated the getaway, the driver would then be Mediately Materially Cooperating in mortal sin.

Negative Cooperation in mortal sin: If the robbers said to their friend, “I’m taking your car for a robbery,” and the friend did and said nothing, and let them take the car, this is considered negative cooperation. He was in a position to obstruct the conduct of a sinful act, but chose to do nothing. This is like the ‘sin of omission’.

The Ladders of Proximity and Necessity

Subsequent distinctions can be drawn for a Mediate Material Cooperator. They may not intend a certain consequence, but the consequence can be foreseen. So we ask then, how close they were to the act and how necessary their cooperation was to completion of the act?

Proximate, Mediate Material Cooperation in mortal sin: The bank robbers ask their friend to borrow his car. The friend, who knows they are bank robbers, allows them to borrow the car, foreseeing that it could be used for robbery but intending that it is not. The friend is in Proximate, mediate, material cooperation with the mortal sin of the robbers.

Remote, Mediate Material Cooperation in mortal sin: The winter-sporting goods store where the robbers purchased their ski masks also furnished some means for the robbery but they are sufficiently removed from the robbery itself to be considered remote. A store cannot anticipate how shoppers use their wares, for good or ill. The shopkeep is remotely cooperating. The degree of remoteness affects culpability, and other mitigating factors not included in this scenario. All else being equal, the shopkeep may not be culpable for their mortal sin.

Necessary, Mediate Material Cooperation in mortal sin: Supposing that the robbers did not have a car and had no other means to acquire a car, the friend giving them use of his car is necessary mediate material cooperation. The sin could not have been committed without the car, so the friend shares the burden for cooperating in that sin.

Non-Necessary, Mediate Material Cooperation in mortal sin: Supposing again that the shopkeep at the winter sports store sold the robbers their ski masks, that is non necessary cooperation, as if the shopkeep refused to sell them the masks they could have gone elsewhere and purchased the same masks, or fashioned some different face covering. The masks were not essential to the completion of the sinful act, and was thus not necessary. By this consideration, the shopkeep’s cooperation was non necessary, and culpability would be commensurately reduced.

Determining Morality of Mediate Cooperation

This was said first and said best in the link:

1. In a serious evil, proximate mediate material cooperation is permitted only if necessary to escape a very serious damage.

2. In a serious evil, necessary mediate material cooperation is permitted only if necessary to escape a very serious damage.

3. In a serious evil, mediate material cooperation that is both proximate and necessary is permitted only if necessary to escape an extremely serious damage. Moreover, where cooperation could bring serious harm to a third party, proximate and necessary cooperation (i.e., harm to the third party would not occur if the cooperator were to refuse) is permitted only if the cooperator would suffer damage commensurate with the injury suffered by the third party. In this case of harm to the third party, the law of charity requires this greater constraint, but not at the cost of greater harm to the cooperator.

4. Mediate material cooperation which is non-necessary and very remote is permitted for a reasonable cause.

5. In other cases the degree of necessity or proximity of cooperation must be judged in proportion to the evil effect and in proportion to the degree of the good effect achieved by the cooperator.

The best way I can think to explain this is to go through the rubric with the example of Abortion.

Lets suppose a husband is driving his wife to an abortionist for the purpose of obtaining an abortion. His cooperation is both proximate and necessary. Because this is a grave matter, it is only permitted to escape serious damage: Say the mother’s life was in imminent danger due to a complication with the pregnancy. This cooperation may then be permitted.

In this case, there is also the prospect of serious harm to a third party, the baby. The above scenario does not automatically give license to abort the baby. It must be sufficiently grave danger, wherein they must choose (for example) between saving the Mothers life, or losing both the mother and the baby. The Husbands cooperation in driving his wife to the abortionist may then be permitted as well.

The manufacturer of the car, for example, is both non-necessary and very remote. Their reasonable cause would be making a living, and so they are not culpable for cooperation in the sin. Please note: non-necessary and remote cooperation does not automatically excuse cooperation! There must be reasonable cause for the cooperation, as well as the other limitations described above.

In all other cases, in point 5 above, necessity and proximity must be judged proportionally to the sin being cooperated in and the good achieved by cooperating. In other words, we cannot presume upon Gods will or mercy, but this leaves open mitigating factors in the case of ambiguity.

The Chain of Sin

Let’s take the abortion example and follow the chain of sin all the way to the voters.

Mortal Sin: A Doctor at an Abortion clinic performs an abortion

Immediate, Material Cooperation in Mortal Sin: The Treasurer of the abortion clinic pays the Doctor

Remote, Necessary Mediate Material Cooperation in Mortal Sin: The clerk of a government agency pays the abortion clinic, the payment which is the only thing keeping the abortion clinic open. If the payment has no effect on whether the abortion clinic remains open, the clerk is of reduced culpability as their participation is no longer necessary.

Remote, Non-Necessary Mediate Material Cooperation in a sin: An elected representative appoints the clerk, with the reasonable cause of performing their duty to appoint clerks to various agencies. This becomes Necessary Cooperation if this elected official is the only person who can make the appointment, and thus would become a mortal sin. The elected representative would be obligated to resign rather than facilitate the procurement of abortions to the public.

Remote, Non-Necessary Mediate Material Cooperation in a sin: An elected representative votes to fund the agency, with the reasonable cause of performing their duty to set budgets and apportion funding to various agencies. This becomes Necessary Cooperation if the ONLY PURPOSE of the vote was to fund the abortion clinic, and would thus be mortal sin. If the agency funds other things besides the abortion clinic, participation would return to being non-necessary, and would reduce culpability.

Very Remote, Non-necessary Mediate Material Cooperation in a sin: A citizen who votes for those elected representatives, with the reasonable cause of executing their civic duty. If the elected representative is advertised to be pro-abortion, this becomes Necessary Cooperation because the representative is advertising their intention to increase availability of abortions, and would thus be a mortal sin. If the elected representative was neutral or explicitly anti-abortion, the vote for that representative would have no impact on whether abortion is or isn’t offered in the country, and would thus be morally neutral.

Very Remote, Non-necessary Negative Cooperation in a sin: A citizen who abstains from voting for those elected representatives, with the reasonable cause of not wishing to participate in their civic duty. Their non-vote has no effect on the outcome of the election, and does nothing for or against the cause of abortion. While the evil effect is known, their actions neither help nor hinder, and thus cannot be considered a mortal sin.

Socks and Scandals

While voting is generally neutral in this case, we still have an obligation to avoid voting for candidates who are explicitly pro-abortion. If all candidates in an election are pro-abortion, then voting or not voting has no impact and would still be considered (by some) to be morally neutral, since there is no effect on the profusion of abortion.

However, now we must consider scandal. If one candidate is pro-abortion and one is not, we are obligated to vote for the one who is not. If both candidates are pro-abortion, we may be morally able to vote for one or the other, but if our Catholic or non-Catholic peers became aware they may be given to Scandal, which adds an element of sin to the deed.

While in the United States of America we have the benefit of the Australian / Secret ballot, there may be circumstances where we could discuss politics and risk giving scandal.

Here is where my friend and braintrust offers some sage advice:

“I think the safest choice in any circumstance is to not discuss it unless pressed and then to justify the decision with Catholic teaching”

This is good advice for more than just voting.


Voting (by which I mean, civic participation in a government aparatus that may be tyrannical) is not material participation in sin, by this rubric! We have unwound one pillar of the Tyranny problem. We now must consider the bigger question: What is our obligation if we find ourselves under a Tyranny?

We have added more definitions and have a lot more to think about.


XX – The Joy of Discovery

Authors Note: I’ve been thinking a lot about taking my notes from this talk and condensing them into an intelligible essay. I can think of no better day to do it than Christmas, for I can think of no more universally Joyful day on the Calendar. This is wisdom from a Seminarian who visited my parish over the summer, and he gave a talk about vocations which was incredibly powerful. So please remember: This is someone else’s talk, filtered through handwritten notes and journal entries, then some months later re-translated from my annotations into an essay. Give the Seminarian all the credit, and me all of the blame! Please dedicate a decade of the Rosary for the intention of this seminarian, and for all seminarians. St. Peter, who humbly accepted his important vocation as the Rock on which Christ would build his Church, pray for us.

Discernment vs. Discovery

When we are talking about Vocations, there is a tendency to think of discernment as a form of shopping. People think, if they sit in prayerful contemplation for long enough, and think about things they can do, then a light will shine down from on high when they have figured out the right one for them. They will learn their ‘calling’ and then go do that thing, whatever it is.

Perhaps a better way to think of ‘thinking about’ vocations, is Discovery. Discovery has the connotation of exploration, of revealing, of Charting new territory. But in order to adequately ‘discover’ our vocations, we need to have proper context for vocations and properly understand how to begin a process of discovery.

You can imagine vocations as a pyramid with three layers. The bottom layer is Holiness, which is fundamental to all else. The next layer up is ‘State in Life’, which is where Vocations live. The top layer is, “Occupation”. Each layer can be construed as an answer to these questions:

  • Holiness: “Am I moving my life towards God?”
  • State in Life: “What am I doing with my life?”
  • Occupation: “What am I doing today?”

We will address each one in turn.


We cannot even be said to be directionally correct with our prayerful contemplation if we are not generally committed to increasing in holiness. Holiness is fundamental to all else, and will support the vocation we have and the occupation we choose. Holiness brings stability to the pyramid.

We are called to and, really, created for holiness. The word is derived from Hebrew, Qurosh[1], which means ‘Set Apart for a Purpose, Chosen.’ In other words, we are, each of us, chosen by God to share in a unique and unrepeatable relationship with God. A Friendship, even!

To cultivate this friendship with God that is Holiness, we need to understand what it means to be friends at all. For this, we turn to our good friend Aristotle. Artistotle says friendship requires three things:

  • We must share our life with them.
    • We cannot be friends with strangers!
  • Our friend becomes another self.
    • Just as we do not will harm to our left arm, so to do we not will harm to our friends: We will their good, because they are a part of us.
  • We have an equality of goodness or virtue
    • For example: We cannot be friends with a drug dealer, if drug dealing is antithetical to our values. 

A short way of restating all of this is that there must be reciprocal love between friends! Let us turn these concepts to our relationship with God.

  • Do we share our lives with God through prayer or adoration?
  • Do we make God another self through the Eucharist at Mass, and the sacrament of Reconciliation?
  • While we cannot be Gods equal in virtue, as God is perfectly virtuous, do we strive to unite our values to Christ’s example?

These are ways to begin thinking about cultivating Holiness. But remember: This reciprocal love with God is possible through Christ, who became Man so he could experience all that we experience, and love us the way we love each other. Because God became man, friendship with God is possible!

Here, though, we caution against the instant gratification that is rampant in our present age. The plant Christ chose as a metaphor for holiness was the Mustard Seed[2]. Mustard plants grow slowly, over a long time. But they do indeed grow, and we must view ourselves as caretakers of this tree.

We have a number of tools at our disposal to care for this tree:

  • Mass: Our weekly union with God, in the flesh, taking him into ourselves.
  • Confession: We can return ourselves to union with God through this blessed Sacrament, if we have fallen away.
  • Adoration: Spending time in prayerful contemplation in the mere presence of God can help us build that relationship with Him.
  • The Rosary: Our Blessed Mother is a great comfort, and asking her to pray on our behalf is never fruitless
  • Prayer in general: Praying is like making conversation with God. It is hard at first, as we just get to know Him, but over time that relationship builds and strengthens.

Caring for this tree also bears certain fruits, in the form of the Theological virtues:

  • Faith, to know God
  • Hope, for eternal life
  • Charity, a deeper friendship with God

Caring for this mustard seed of holiness and letting it set deep roots in fertile soil is fundamental to understanding our vocation.

State of Life

As stated earlier, this next layer of the pyramid answers the question, ‘What am I doing with my life?’ In other words: You are pursuing holiness, how are you helping others pursue holiness? Where are you in life that pursuing holiness happens? The pursuit of holiness does not take place in a vacuum: your State of Life brings it context.

We all know what state of life we are in, and we all generally have a sense of what state of life we want to be in. So this is something we can prepare for, and pray for.

There are three major categories for vocations: Marriage, Religious Life, or Dedicated Single. Said another way, Vocation is deciding who you are going to marry: A spouse, the Church, or no one. This is where we return to the ideas of Discernment and Discovery.

To reiterate, ‘discernment’ is like looking through a pile of evidence on a table. That evidence exists because we were created for a vocation. But connecting the dots is challenging, and we tend to treat it like shopping for values. Like a consulting detective brought on, without knowing what the original crime was; we can’t discern what our Vocation is without knowing what evidence we’re looking for.

Discovery is probably a better way of thinking about it. This is like going out and collecting the evidence. Once you have it, you can prayerfully discern what it means. But really, I believe it will become plain as you collect more and more. This is because we have a set of traits inherent to us. We have hopes and gifts and struggles and faults which are unique to us. Discovery includes, first, lifting these things up to God, praying over them, and seeing where God points us. Let him be our compass on an uncharted map, and let him guide us to discover within ourselves what we ought to do.

The key here is self awareness. If we understand the past, and are attentive to the present, we will be able to discover. As Mark Twain said, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it Rhymes. As you look into your past, you will begin to hear the rhymes of your life, and these will point you to your vocation. But, as always when looking into our past, we will want to shun the bad parts.

I wrote what the Seminarian said because I thought it was important enough to get verbatim:

We need to look deep into our past. See the hurt, the frustration, the flaws, bring those to God and lay before him. Then we need to look back. Look at the Good. Look for the Joy in your life. Look for connections. Look for signs that God is trying to move you in a particular direction. Discover what God has already done.

Then we can ask ourselves, honestly, what we want. What brings our lives meaning? What brings our lives Joy?

Fear and Commitment

As we begin to have more context for our vocation, we run into some common challenges, in which we fear what we will find, and we must commit to what we find. That is to say, we are nervous about actually discovering our vocation: A life of perpetual discernment seems easier, because we know it. Spiritual Inertia makes us want to remain at rest. And commitment: Once we discover our vocation, we must commit to following through with it, which is a challenge unto itself. Vocation is not an end, but rather a means to an end.

Some common fears:

  • Do I have to stop having fun?
  • Will I find myself called to something I don’t want?

We must remember that God always keeps his promises. As the cliche goes: If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life. You will love your vocation, because God doesn’t call us to something that compromises our Joy. Our vocation will not compromise our Joy, but will fill us with it.

As we discover our vocation, look for things–in present or past–that bring us Life, Joy, and Peace. These are not feelings, but they have feelings associated with them. You will recognize it when you see it. Anything that takes away from those things, take it before God and pray over it, and remember to look back and see what you really have.

Regarding Commitment, our first calling is to holiness. We must commit to this calling! Furthermore, you cannot commit to a vocation you haven’t explored. Our will is aimed at these good things, and will only be happy when it has those things.

As we work through our fears and wrangle with the idea of commitment, we need to remember that this is a process. It is fruitful to live a spiritual life in our present state, whatever it may be, while we discern vocations. We will have many feelings, that cycle of happiness and sadness, but we can experience both in a state of Joy that God has a plan for us. Instant Gratification makes us want answers now, but remember: Holiness takes work. We must have faith that God is working!

Some Concluding Thoughts

Our Occupation should help us as a means to an end. It helps us fulfill our vocation, but is not our vocation. While we can, we must give time to discovery. Think about where we want to be and where we are. Read the Saints, understand their journey, and use them as inspiration and intercession to help you on your journey.

But before all else: It begins with Prayer. Give time to Prayer, and listen to what God has to say. Your vocation will fall into place.

It’s Me Again

That talk was inspiring to me, and I have referred to it many times since I first heard it over the summer. I want to share some insight into what I got out of the talk, and one of the ways it impacted me.

Some brief background: I have been journaling for four years. I looked back through my journals after this talk. I was, as I expected, afraid to look because there’s a lot of hurt there: Family struggles, Depression, dark places of every stripe. I took those to God and prayed on them, and then, as recommended, I looked back. Tried to see through the fog.

Here’s an excerpt from my journal:

First: I struggle with a lot of the same things as I did in the past four years, but I handle them differently. I’m willing to say better-but i’ll let you be the judge.

One thing I get out of this, pattern wise, is that I’m very focused on people. I get a lot of value out of people, and how I interact with people defines my day. I would not have described myself this way, but now that I see it I know it’s true: I am very externally motivated and emotionally connected to how I interact with people.

1- Can I leverage that towards self improvement?
2- Can I leverage that towards my vocation?


I live alone as an emotional reaction to individuals what done me wrong. [sic]

I am a person who values heavily relationships with people. I am unhappy living alone because I am denying myself a fundamental element of who I am. I need to re-open myself to [having] roommates because they will help me live my best life.

I documented my moment of epiphany. And I was able to take action and change my life. My prayerful discovery process is not complete, but for me, there was immediate value in following the advice of the seminarian.

I hope this is as helpful for you as it was/is for me. Share your stories in the comments!


[1] – I have not independently verified this translation, I only inadequately jotted down the word that his sounds seemed to make. IPA: kuɾɑʃ.

[2]Luke 13:19