Wednesday 21st February 2018

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Whether Trinket Or Honorific, Ploumen Deserves Neither

February 1, 2018 Frontpage No Comments

By SHAUN KENNEY

The scandal over pro-abort Lilianne Ploumen simply will not die, with the Vatican at first effectively denying that the honorific was ever awarded, then insisting in an ironic twist that the papal medal was intended as a slight — not as an award.
That would indeed be news to Ploumen.
Of course, for those who are consistent readers of this column, there is an interesting link that is worth exploring between honor and its forms and l’affaire Ploumen.
Shakespeare’s Falstaff is quoted as observing honor as a mere scutcheon. One has to see the irony displayed here between Ploumen receiving a scutcheon of honor and Falstaff’s contempt for the same. What the Vatican bureaucrats intended or did not intend by extending this honor, I’ll leave to other minds to discern.
Yet at core is that these symbols and honorifics really do mean something. Perhaps our Falstaffs at the Vatican truly believed that Ploumen was being extended a trinket without the honors of ceremony and pomp. Certainly Willem Cardinal Eijk of Utrecht expressed his astonishment that he was not even considered in the exchange between Vatican diplomats and Dutch abortion advocates — an oddity indeed.
Let us be charitable, though. Assume for a moment that our Vatican diplomats were as fond of Shakespeare’s Falstaff as we are, and thought for a moment that they were deploying a clever device to insult the “honor” extended to Ploumen as a mere scutcheon — mere jewels and no meaning.
Herein lies the problem. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer remarked many years ago that honor was invisible to the man who had none. To those with honor, the Order of St. Gregory would be a humbling recognition of a lifetime of work. Invitations to the Vatican would inspire obedience, not arrogance. Ploumen — if she had a shred of honor — would have returned the medal just as quickly as any American might have returned an unearned Purple Heart. Stolen valor means something, after all.
Yet to those for whom honor is invisible, such trinkets and scutcheons only serve to embellish not only their pride but validate their opposition to the Holy Catholic Church and the Sacred Magisterium.
One truly hesitates to beat this drum too much, if for no other reason than that it is a drum well beaten by many others over the last few weeks. Yet the damage these honors do to those of us who know honor as a friend? It is a deep and lasting wound. Perhaps one may argue that such honor stems from pride. This would indeed be a false honor, as true honor is found in sacred bonds of sacrifice.
For this reason, veterans are incensed when outsiders wear honorifics intended for those who have indeed sacrificed in combat — and rightly so — because the bonds of combat and self-sacrifice give credence to John 15:13, that greater love hath no man than this; that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Within this gap lies the lacuna between the scutcheon of the Order of St. Gregory and Lilianne Ploumen; the great gap of honor that makes this entire episode either acceptable or vastly unacceptable, not because anyone has sacrificed their life in the exchange, but because it gravely dishonors two sacrifices — the babies who will die at the hands of Ploumen’s abortion advocacy, and Jesus Christ in whose name Ploumen’s work was so honored.

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Once again, I am deeply honored with further correspondence (and deep reading!) from Mr. M — in Elk River — who is indeed a kindred soul. As I am seriously delinquent in my correspondence, I beg everyone’s forgiveness and promise to respond just as quickly as I can to each of you. Believe me, I love the letters!

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Speaking of kindred souls, a gentleman whose wisdom I have come to rely upon like a steel rod offered me an almost instantaneous critique of my more political writings elsewhere: “Mr. Kenney, you are a smart man, but you have too much faith in the public square.”
Ouch.
Of course, I understand what my friend is communicating here. Human beings, though made in the image and likeness of God, fall catastrophically short of that image. This part, which I consider to be a common stem of my Catholic heritage, recognizes what J.R.R. Tolkien observed as the “long defeat of history” and the corruption of the world.
Yet there is another voice that speaks from my more Jeffersonian traditions rooted in the work of both St. Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus — specifically that mankind observes the natural law as a reflection of the divine law. This natural law tradition is reflected in the work of Hugo Grotius contra Thomas Hobbes, in the work of St. Robert Bellarmine in response to the Protestant-manufactured divine right of kings, and in the works of the Scottish Enlightenment — all brought to the Virginia founders through men such as George Wythe.
Jefferson’s belief that humanity did not require coercion to be fundamentally good, that error alone required the support of government, and that truth was immutable and not to be feared are all suppositions I have taken as canon.
Of course, I have no faith whatsoever in the passions of the mob. Yet I do have an overwhelming degree of faith in the human person as an individual, and moreover, when united in the Eucharist, in the Body of Christ. This public square is worth defending; to “trust implicitly” as Cardinal Newman counseled.

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Of course, I am succeeding (but not replacing) the inestimable Mr. James K. Fitzpatrick for the First Teachers column.
Please feel free to send any correspondence for First Teachers to Shaun Kenney, c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Road, Kents Store, VA 23084 — or if it is easier, simply send me an e-mail with First Teachers in the subject line to: svk2cr@virginia.edu.

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