Friday, August 14, 2009

Casuist and Demagogue: Show me your bona fides

Casuistry: specious, deceptive, or oversubtle reasoning, esp. in questions of morality; fallacious or dishonest application of general principles; sophistry.

That's what is going on over at WhiteCoat's Call Room: A blog from inside the emergency department. This medical blogger recently admonished a reader -- who had him dead to rights on his basic intellectual and political insincerity: "Dis me, but don’t dis the mag."

[He writes for EPMonthly, which calls itself "the independent voice of emergency room physicians."]

Of course! I would never cast a jaundiced eye toward the vehicle for WhiteCoat's demagoguery. I am sure his practiced subtlety has them absolutely hoodwinked.

And I'd never, ever infer that he has a measure of responsibility as a representative of the site.

The sea change of my opinion began on August 3, 2009 with the stupid and disingenuous post entitled Highlights from the health reform bill.

By the time I read the post, what needed to be said in commentary had been said, so I did my usual stutter-fook. What required airing? Well, BK said, for example:


You’ve had some shoddy arguments in the past, but this one takes the cake…by far!

Commentary (from unknown source) is contained below.
This doesn’t worry you at all? In a debate so filled with misinformation, halftruths, and outright lies, you’re posting some unknown partisan hacks interpretation of the bill? (and yes, if you look down the list it is obviously made by a partisan hack).

I wish I could say I was surprised that you posted this.

Nick even wanted to abstract WC out of authorship, saying:

Someone needs to apologize for the brazen dishonesty of this post, especially the completely fictitious assertions about government deciding end of life care.

I am requiring more of myself these days, the product of having spent so much time feeling rotten instead of trying to rise above. Everytime I am angered and offput by Stupid-Unto-Dangerous Politicking, I nevertheless lack the willpower to "unsubscribe" from the blog feed in question. I tell myself the lie that keeping an eye on the "other side" is instructive. I tell myself that it's worth putting up with because of the drole stories intersperced with dyspeptic agenda. I even dare to think that the rationed humor is funny enough. I say, "He challenges me to think in a different way... And it is important to keep an eye on The Loyal Opposition." But in so doing, I overstate the status of bloggers like WhiteCoat, and lower my level of responsibility in thought and discourse.

I also have admonished myself for being overly serious and terribly thinskinned. But I am in a period of accelerated aging, and along with the dearth in time comes an awful lot of additional maturity.

Is it over-the-top to employ terms like demagoguery and casuistry in reference to someone of little fame beyond the rarefied air of the medical blogosphere? Has he earned his bona fides* to the exclusion of all doubt of his good faith?

No, and no.

It saddens me to conclude that WhiteCoat is an insincere sniveler. And so I crowed hooray when Shadowfax took on his lame attempt to disown the disingenuity of More Analysis of the Healthcare Reform Bill:

You also backpedal greatly away from this email, which you claim was only posted to generate discussion. Your language was more approving at the time: “they are generally on point, although some of the commentary isn’t entirely accurate.” Fair enough, you had a disclaimer. My advice: don’t uncritically disseminate half-true stuff. Promote that with which you agree, debunk that which is untrue, but don’t weasel with the “I dunno, looks OK, you decide” approach.

I've canceled my subscription to WhiteCoat's blog. He'll be reeling from my absence for a long time, I know -- inconsolable. For my more progressive take on the issue of health care reform, I prefer the goods over at Movin'Meat.

And so, WhiteCoat (who doesn't know me from Adam), I have followed your advice and not dissed the mag.

*bona fides: Good faith, or in Latin bona fides (bona fide means "in good faith"), is the mental and moral state of honesty, conviction as to the truth or falsehood of a proposition or body of opinion, or as to the rectitude or depravity of a line of conduct.... In contemporary English, "bona fides" is sometimes used as a synonym for credentials, background, or documentation of a person's identity. "Show me your bona fides" can mean: Why should I trust you (your good faith in this matter)? Tell me who you are.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Put Your Hands on the Magic Gams: Praise the Lord!

Unfortunately for you, quite happily for me, this blog continues to be a reliquaire -- the shapely sainted scent of this cut-glass bowl of -- well, let's be nice and continue the tired appropriation of potpourri.

Actually, this motley collection calls more to mind those jeweled and funky medieval reliquaries in the form of the various holy body parts they contain. My favorite, and, I believe, the most salutary? The Magic Gams of the Saints.

Put Your Hands on the Magic Gams: Praise the Lord!
(to the right, Reliquary of Saint Blaise, Dubrovnik)

The Ho-Hum-itude of your generic reliquaries: your fancy boxes, studded with tiresome jewels and enamel work; your larger fancy-schmancy boxes in the form of romanesque churches and spired cathedrals; your humongous fancy boxes shaped like Ye Olde Ubiquitous Coffins, your musty grinning ossuaries that approximate real worship space (Chinese feng shui dates back a good pretty bit)?

They are patently inferior to the free-standing chasse legs of a more enlightened era.

Still, reliquary legs can pose the occasional conundrum, as noted in this article about the infamous three-legged Saint Chad back in 1996:

Scientists examining the relics of a 7th-century saint venerated in Birmingham have discovered that his casket contains three legs rather than the customary two.

Radio-carbon dating, however, has established that five of the six bones in the reliquary of St Chad may well be genuine, since they date form the 6th or 7th century; one of the bones which Catholics have revered for 1,300 years is a century or two older than the rest. The Oxford archaeologist who carried out the test believes that that bones from three bodies were jumbled together when the saint was reburied.

St Chad, or Ceadd, who died in 672, was the first Bishop of Mercia, with his seat in Lichfield, where he was buried. He had been, briefly, Archbishop of York, before he was removed from the post by St Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury. His bones had been moved to a new church in 700 and were kept in Lichfield Cathedral until the Reformation, when Henry VIII abolished the cult of relics.

St Chad's brother, Cedd, was also a saint and founded a monastery where St Chad was later abbot. On hearing the news of St Chad's many-legged state, one distinguished Catholic historian joked that the extra leg might belong to St Cedd.

The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Maurice Couve de Murville, has authorised continued devotion to the relics - provided it is directed at all the bones equally.

See? I've good reason to prefer a more fitting fitted container-for-the-thing-contained. Something less a dime-a-dozen casket and more a Glamorous Gam.

Actually, the simple stories of the travels and travails of saintly relics can be enlightening of the human spirit -- frail and heroic -- as well as just plain hilarious. More about the relics of Saint Chad:

According to St. Bede, he was immediately venerated as a saint and his relics were translated to a new shrine. He is considered a saint in the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches, and is also noted as a saint in a new edition of the Eastern Orthodox Synaxarion (Book of Saints), in response to increasing attention to pre-Schism western saints. His feast day is celebrated on March 2.

Chad remained the centre of an important cult, focussed on healing, throughout the middle ages. This was centred on his tomb, behind the high altar of the cathedral, and his skull, in a special Head Chapel.

At the dissolution of the Shrine on the instructions of King Henry VIII in about 1538, Prebendary Arthur Dudley of Lichfield Cathedral removed and retained some relics, probably a travelling set. These were eventually passed to his nieces, Bridget and Katherine Dudley, of Russells Hall.
In 1651, they reappeared when a farmer Henry Hodgetts of Sedgley was on his death-bed and kept praying to St Chad, when the priest hearing his last confession, Fr Peter Turner SJ, asked him why he called upon Chad. Henry replied, "because his bones are in the head of my bed". He instructed his wife to give the relics to the priest, whence they found their way to the Seminary at St Omer, in France. After the conclusion of penal times, in the early 19th Century, they found their way into the hands of Sir Thomas Fitzherbert-Brockholes of Aston Hall, near Stone, Staffordshire. When his chapel was cleared after his death, his chaplain, Fr Benjamin Hulme, discovered the box containg the relics, which were examined and presented to Bishop Thomas Walsh, (RC) Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District in 1837 and were enshrined in the new Cathedral of St Chad in Birmingham, opened in 1841, in a new ark designed by Augustus Pugin.

Somewhere in this morning's journeys, I fell in love with the pottery of John Hodge. A brief communion with a photo gallery of his work went a long way toward the erosion of my present wise-crackery. He explains: "Every piece of pottery that I make generates from clay or slip (liquid clay) that has been mixed in my studio. I have begun to think of this clay and slip as a source of energy which I enhance with special additions, including holy water and fountain from our favorite churches and fountains in Rome, and holy dirt from the shrine of Chimayo in New Mexico. I also added the ashes of ribbon that I got from the trash can in the apartment where John Lennon and Yoko Ono were living on Bank Street in New York City, when they were fighting extradition to England in the ‘70’s. Also included are the ashes of ticker tape from the John Glenn ticker tape parade in New York. I think of my pottery as a reliquary of positive energy."

Wouldn't it be a wonder if our lives were such a perfect fit? I am reliquary :: I am [sufficient] relic?

A mesh, a complement -- either of two parts or things needed to complete the whole --counterparts -- a safe and sacred conversation?

So I'm a leg woman. You might be partial to hands. Not to worry, friend, as hands and feet are number six in the hit parade of fetishes, according to the ever popular Women's Sexuality Correspondent Vanessa Burton at, certainly my preferred source for informed erotica.

John Hodge has made some fascinating hand reliquary:

Au sens premier du mot, un reliquaire (du latin reliquiarium) contient les reliques d'un saint chrétien.

For an interesting look at relics in Buddhism, and the democratization (and proliferation) of those relics -- a process almost identical to that of their Christian counterparts -- read the first chapter (or at least the last half of the first chapter!) of The impact of Buddhism on Chinese material culture by John Kieschnick.

Also, I ran across an interesting take on "relics, cremation and organ donation" at the Blog of the Dormition: Eastern Catholic Apostolic Orthodox (one John R.P. Russell runs the joint) -- a very nice, but painful, logical extension of learning about reliquary as a [strictly Christian] concept:

Within the Christian tradition, to bury the dead is a work of mercy – to burn the dead a desecration. The bodies of our departed holy ones are rightly venerated in altars, catacombs, and cemeteries, in reliquaries and ossuaries in reverent expectation of the coming resurrection.

In the light of traditional Christian respect for the corpse, ought Christians to regard the transplantation of human organs as a desecration or a veneration of the body?

Most Christians are firmly in the latter camp, believing with neither doubt nor hesitation in this modern medical miracle. Others hesitate. I have hesitated for years.

A compelling argument against organ donation, it has seemed to me, is the resurrection of Lazarus. Imagine that, upon his death, Mary and Martha had carved him up and used his organs to save other folks’ lives. This would put a whole new spin on Christ's command, "Lazarus, come out!" Would his organs, in obedience to their Creator, have jumped from the guts of their recipients?

Lazarus is not unique. The Seven Holy Sleepers, too, rose from the dead. Peter raised the dead (Acts 9:40). The bones of Elias raised the dead (2 Kings 13: 21). How, if some organs of these lived on, would their resurrections have occurred?

Would Jesus have wanted His organs donated?

If, indeed, our bodies are to rise from the dead, are not our organs to rise with them? What is a body but a group of organs? Significantly, our bodies will rise from the dead – our souls are not given new bodies. Body and soul are linked. The soul is the life of the body. Our bodies rise and, if we are saved, are glorified. They are made new, but are not recreated.

Compelled as I have been by these arguments, in truth, “the free gift of organs after death is legitimate and can be meritorious” (CCC 2301).

What is more, the practice of organ transplantation actually has ancient Christian approval. Sts. Cosmas and Damian, as here illustrated, once performed a miraculous leg transplant as a means of healing an ulcerated leg.

The workings of resurrection are mysterious – unplumbable. Our omnipotent God has taught us the greatest love is the gift of self – self-sacrifice. For the sake of such love, God, Who is Love, will surely make a way. Where I have seen contradiction, there is none.

No greater reliquary could there be for the organs of a departed loved one than the body of another – here is a reliquary of God’s own creation, “more precious than the most exquisite jewels and more purified than gold” (Martyrdom of Polycarp, c. 135). Here indeed is a fitting place to deposit our remains.

Saints Cosmas and Damian, unmercenary physicians, performing a miraculous transplant of a leg from a deceased Ethiopian. Attributed to Master of Los Balbases (15th Century).