Sunday, February 26, 2017

Now This Is Getting Interesting Or Ridiculous

Maybe the best way to make the point is to ask who has the standing to decide "the ultimate question" of whether or not what Pius IX did to Edgardo Mortara was good or evil.  

Who gets to decide that?  Tony Kushner? Steven Spielberg?  Pius IX?  His henchmen? Anti-Catholic polemicists?  Ultramontanist nutters?  Authors with an ideological axe to grind during Mortara's life or decades after his death?  Mortara's parents?  His siblings?  Their descendants?   Who has the highest standing to make that ultimate determination?

Now, if you've come up with your preferred answer, how about this?  What was Edgardo Mortara's standing to make that determination about his own life as compared to that of anyone else? 

I certainly think the kidnapping was an evil act but I don't have the standing to make the determination that Edgardo Mortara did.  My judgement of the kidnapping is on a general, abstract principle that, unless there was reasonable evidence of child abuse or neglect,  Pius IX and his henchmen committed an evil act just as ICE does when they tear parents away from their children. But that judgement is an abstract that can't override the adult Edgardo Mortara's view of his own life. Even his own parents' standing to make that judgement in an ultimate sense is inferior to his.  I don't have a right to ignore that. 

Update:  If what Edgardo Mortara said about it doesn't satisfy you or appease your sense of outrage might piss you off, it doesn't mean his judgement of his own life is inferior to that of someone who never knew him and knows little to nothing about him.  Who died and made you him? 

Update 2:  "If they hand't brainwashed him to be a Catholic he wouldn't say it was all right".  

That's an if, it isn't what happened.   

I'd say that if, as he was older and could say what he thought, Edgardo Mortara said that what happened to him was a violation of his rights, evil, wrong, etc. then that would constitute his mature judgement of the matter and it would be what should be given priority over the opinion of anyone else.  Would you disagree with that?  

And if you agree that his possible adult condemnation of his kidnapping should govern how we think about it, why isn't that also true if his adult judgement of his life didn't condemn it?   

I'm asking you a question, not giving you an answer.  Mortara was the only one qualified to do that. I respect that, you obviously don't. 

That none of this gives someone something they can make an honest movie script from isn't my problem. 

Update 3:  It shouldn't be overlooked that Edgardo Mortara was kidnapped in 1858, when, in these secular United States, governed by the secular Constitution and the Bill of Rights, it was perfectly legal for children to be taken from their parents and sold to people who would not give them a high level of education to be raised as Mortara was.  The ethnic and religious identities of slave holders, including  "free thinking" atheists, would show that what was done in one instance in the Papal States, far worse happened hundreds, thousands of times, year after year in these secular United States and in many other countries. 

If, as is the clear intention in the polemical use of this one incident, it discredits and invalidates Catholicism and Christianity, then the many tens of thousands of such incidents discredits and invalidates the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights and secularism, in general. Or at least it would according to that use of it.  That's almost certainly the real reason this movie is being made, reading more about it and the book that reportedly inspired the decision to make it.   If Kushner and Speilberg surprise me on that I won't be upset about it but, again, I'm not waiting up nights. 


  1. The kidnapping was evil, but it is neither undone by damning the life Mortara lived, nor condoned by accepting Mortara's view of his life.

    This really isn't that complicated. To damn Mortara's life over again because of an act of evil is to damn Mortara, is to keep him a victim of the act in perpetuity. And then the ancient questions arises: cui bono?

    Certainly not Mortara....

    1. What I've got problems with is for people living now to think that they can replace their judgement for Mortara's. If it's valid for them to do that to him, why isn't it valid for other people to do it for them or people they wouldn't want it done to.

      And, as I said, if what Pius IX did with Edgardo Mortara is evil because it made a Jewish child into a Catholic, why isn't the act of making a Jewish child into an atheist equally as bad. Only, when it's atheism, "that's different".

      The fudging of fiction and history is really dangerous.

    2. I should also confess, I love hard problems. Especially when there isn't one, clear, uniform, answer.

  2. Your second update is a perfect example of creating a "victim" so we can be in charge of him. What he thought was wrong, because we're the boss!


    And yes: hard problems are the most interesting.