Monday, April 27, 2009
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the Catholic San Francisco Democrat and pro-abortion communicant, has discovered how “to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.” It’s simple: have fewer people. So in the near term, Pelosi supports over a billion taxpayer dollars in the aptly-named “stimulus package” for contraception and sex (pro-sex, anti-child) education. In the long term, as Humanae Vitae predicted, her logic will lead to government health care, rationing of medical treatment, and eventually the need to eliminate the portion of the population on which the government spends the most money – the old, the sick, and the infirm.
Pelosi’s Law is nothing new: in fact, the U.S. has had the same attitude towards the developing world for over fifty years. Pelosi’s only novelty is that she now treats the United States like any other Third World country. Since the 1950s, the U.S. Government has transmitted a simple message to the poor of the world: “There are too many of you.” In the name of doing good, the U.S. has funded contraceptive family planning programs throughout the Third World, costing tens of billions of dollars. By all appearances, these programs should help the world’s poor obtain clean water, basic health care, food, and agricultural assistance. The reality is less attractive: these programs usually require the host country and cooperating organizations to include contraceptives, Depro-Provera, even (at times) abortion and sterilization as mandatory ingredients of any “health” program – whether the host country wants it or not.
How did this come to pass? For decades, foreign aid has had two constituencies. “National security” assistance was designed to prevent the spread of communism during the Cold War, and was traditionally supported by conservatives. “Economic and humanitarian” assistance was designed to give aid to “developing countries,” and was traditionally supported by liberals. With that broad coalition, foreign aid always seemed to sail through congress.
Foreign aid has always had its opponents among taxpayers and conservatives, but their efforts were miniscule compared to the real beneficiaries of the programs: U.S. defense manufacturers, which supplied most of the “military assistance”; U.S. agricultural firms, which supplied the food assistance; U.S. nonprofits, which received and distributed the lion’s share of the humanitarian assistance; lobbyists for corrupt foreign governments, which always took a generous share off the top for themselves; and U.S. drug firms, which provided the medicines and contraceptives. (It was a sad specter to watch conservative senator Jeff Sessions in 2006, as he opposed outsourcing condom production to Asia. It turned out that the sole supplier of billions of prophylactics for U.S. foreign aid programs was located in his home state of Alabama.)
A “Conservative” Constituency For Family Planning?
During the Reagan Administration, lobbyists for the U.S. companies that profited from foreign aid programs dreamed up a new approach: suddenly, they were conservatives. The suppliers used products from every state in the union – and lo! elected official everywhere had a local “private sector” constituents strongly supporting foreign aid. No longer were those officials “handing out of billions of taxpayer dollars to the Third World.” Now could be praised for “providing good jobs, right here at home.”
So what constituency are Obama and Pelosi pleasing in pushing the anti-Humanae Vitae envelope? Well, as always, there are the profiteers: the “family planning” business in America rakes in billions a year, and its in-house partner, the abortion industry, is close behind (Even before the “stimulus,” contraceptive services alone received $1.6 billion a year from the federal government annually). But there are also the ideologues who simply oppose the traditional family and will do anything to destroy the values that sustain it. Domestically, we see this with Pelosi’s elimination of “abstinence education” funding, even as she advocates “sex education.” Internationally, the situation is best reflected in a report I heard on National Public Radio (NPR) after 9-11, when the U.S. forces invading Afghanistan entered Kabul. U.S. foreign-aid agencies were close behind, and NPR interviewed one of them, a woman who was supposedly bringing health services to Afghan women.
“These women are twenty-eight years old and they already have eight children,” she screamed into her satellite phone. “They won’t even listen when I try to offer them contraceptives. And the men are even worse!!”
So those who benefit from U.S. family planning programs, either financially or ideologically, do not complain. But another important voice is also silent: the U.S. bishops. On January 19, USCCB President Francis Cardinal George wrote President Obama, urging him to preserve conscience rights for health workers, and to oppose funding for abortion in foreign-aid programs. But he did not mention contraception at all:
“Once the clear line between family planning and abortion is erased,” he wrote, “the idea of using family planning to reduce abortions becomes meaningless, and abortion tends to replace contraception as the means for reducing family size. A shift toward promoting abortion in developing nations would also increase distrust of the United States in these nations, whose values and culture often reject abortion, at a time when we need their trust and respect.”
Dare I point out that Humanae Vitae does not draw the line there, Your Eminence?
No wonder that, over the past thirty years, countless Latin American Catholics, including dozens of bishops, have complained to me that U.S. population programs are an insult to their people, their families, and, yes to the Catholic Church itself. I’m sure Cardinal George meant to say “natural family planning” in his letter, but the absence of any meaningful effort on the part of the USCCB to convince its allies in the liberal wing of congress speaks for itself. It sounds an uncertain trumpet, at best. At worst, it delivers a message of silent approval, an abdication of Humanae Vitae, and a warm welcome for the Pelosi-Obama agenda in Washington.
Education: Control In The Long Run
Pelosi’s law relies on the unspoken assumption that children are the wards of the state, and grouses that funds could be more wisely spent elsewhere. This is hardly a new view, but never before has a presidential administration been so close to bringing us to a Brave new World. “Governments Line Up For [Stimulus] Dollars,” crows the Washington Post. As the private sector economy shrinks, Obama sees prospects for growth only in government. Behind all the prattle about “repairing infrastructure” lies a plan to federalize not only every aspect of the economy, but of education as well. The $900 billion stimulus bill contains over $150 billion for “education” – all of it for government schools, of course, with nothing for the eleven percent of American students who do not attend public schools. But with funding comes control, and we can only imagine what horrors the most pro-abortion administration in history will introduce into what will soon become a national social studies curriculum.
Ideologues abound in government education, and they are ever more gay-friendly and family-averse. Obama’s educrats will train children to expect the government to feed them (in the “school lunch” programs, which often include breakfast), to give them medical care (through the Medicaid S-Chip program), to monitor their parents and family life (through Child Protection Services), to give them training for life (through sex education), and, of course, to feed them the party line in whatever time is left for “class.”
If you think that we can defeat these efforts in court, consider: those pupils are also the future members of the juries who will hear our case.
Senator Claiborne Pell, who represented Rhode Island forever, it seems, died at the age of ninety on New Year’s Day. He was an old-fashioned liberal and an old-fashioned gentleman, two dying breeds on Capitol Hill. One of the richest men in the Senate of his day, he is famous for having authored legislation for taxpayer subsidies of students paying college tuition – which rose even faster than the rate of inflation, thanks to endless spending sponsored by – Senator Pell. Of course, like the government grants named after Senator Fulbright, not a penny of those billions ever came out of the private pockets of the senators. So goeth government “charity.”
One facet of Senator Pell’s senatorial demeanor is instructive: I worked with him often, and his staff hated the fact that their boss refused to make me work through them (they were, shall we say, not gentlemen). Senator Pell was always receptive. They were always belligerent. (Of course, I told them that they were welcome to work directly with Senator Helms any time they pleased. None took the dare.)
Fast forward to (you knew it was coming) our beloved bishops. During the Reagan years, a variety of “Catholics” in the U.S. (think “Catholics for Obama”) supported the communist movements that were ravaging various Latin American countries. Left-wing nuns came to see me all the time (and left as soon as I started asking about the founding principles of their orders: they sought ignorant ears). To balance the ledger, the American Foreign Policy Council (AFPC) started bringing to the United States bishops from Latin America to offer a different view: most USCC (later USCCB) staffers supported the revolutionaries. Most Latin American bishops did not.
One day, AFPC brought a Salvadoran bishop to see Archbishop William Borders of Baltimore (over his staff’s objections, of course). The archbishop was visibly moved to hear the views of his brother bishop, and kept extending the conversation. “My staff hasn’t told me any of this,” he said. But eventually the visiting bishop had a plane to catch. “Let me drive you to the airport myself,” said Archbishop Borders. “I want to hear as much as I can from you.”
Hardly an isolated incident. Once a Catholic staffer from the Reagan White House was visiting Archbishop Cardinal Miguel Obando y Bravo in Managua when the Sandinistas were in power. He asked the Cardinal why his brother bishops in the United States did not seem to be aware of the persecution of the Church in Nicaragua and why they were not speaking out. “They must not be reading their mail,” the Cardinal drily responded.
American bishops are very busy men (just try to see one). They rely on their staffs for information, which their staffs happily supply. That helps to explain why so many people in the pews are bewildered when the USCCB embraces so much of the Clinton-Obama agenda. In fact, even mustering opposition to the “Freedom Of Choice Act” seems to make many bishops uncomfortable. Well, a stroll through the USCCB parking lot of 2000 and 2004 would explain the problem: Gore and Kerry for President bumper stickers abounded (in 2008, the bishops themselves gushed with praise for Obama– most notably former USCCB president Wilton Gregory, now Archbishop of Atlanta.)
Let’s face it – especially since the scandals erupted, many bishops are gun-shy about the laity. After all, that’s where all the abuse victims and their families were, and a lot of them were pretty mad. Many bishops appear to trust their lawyers more than they do the laity. That has made reconciliation very difficult. Too many chanceries have retreated behind “policies and procedures” which are, alas, useless. Their silly “child protection” courses refuse even to call abortion child abuse! Nonetheless, when you get by their staffs, there are undoubtedly bishops, successors to the apostles, many of whom are like Claiborne Pell – true gentlemen. Let’s hope that, in the case of Holy Mother Church, at least, they are not a dying breed.
Since Christmas, President Bush and many of his supporters have given interviews designed to defend his “legacy,” with the common theme that “history will vindicate” the president, even though he is unpopular now. Most of the defenders focus on the Iraq War, not on the economy or on social issues. In fact, that latter topic always seems to come in last. One of the most troubling observations came from David Kuo, who was deputy director of Bush’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives:
“The reality in the White House is—if you look at the most senior staff—you’re seeing people who aren’t personally religious and have no particular affection for people who are religious-right leaders…. in the political-affairs shop in particular, you saw a lot of people who just rolled their eyes at … basically every religious-right leader that was out there, because they just found them annoying and insufferable.”
Once more, pro-life voters have been taken for a ride by powerful cliques with private agendas (mostly money, influence, and power). As the last few months demonstrate, those people still run the GOP, and will, long after Bush leaves office. Don’t expect them to lift a finger to help us save one life from Obamanation’s Culture of Death.
The $100,000 Question
The bailout has cost eight trillion dollars already, we are told, and the “stimulus” will cost another trillion. Now Obama says that “trillion-dollar deficits may last for years.” Of course, this violates the Seventh Commandment, big-time. But, putting that aside, a question: why let the government spend all that money?
Here’s an idea. The Census Bureau says that there are 116 million households in America. Why doesn’t Obama merely give each head-of-household $100,000 and let them spend it any way they want? Total cost, $11.6 trillion – less than what Bush and Obama are spending right now. Just one problem: that lets the people, not government bigwigs, decide where the money will go. The beleaguered banks, insurance companies, mortgage lenders, and automakers are still going to get the money -- but they’ll get it from the people, not the government. Folks will pay off credit cards, mortgage balances, auto loans, insurance premiums, new cars – even (gasp!) open savings accounts! No Beltway lobbyists will be needed.
Right now, Mr. Paulson and the Federal Reserve are giving trillions secretly to their chosen cronies. The 116 million American households, still mired in hard times, aren’t getting a cent. After all that money is handed out, foreclosures and bankruptcies and collapses will continue unabated. The special interests will get trillions in taxpayer dollars and still be able to collect on all those additional trillions of consumer debt. Maybe, just maybe, that’s the way bankers like Paulson and politicians like Obama want it: they want everybody – the special interests and the beleaguered masses -- to depend on the government. Once again, freedom comes in last.
Love, Obama Style
My mailbox has been overflowing with invitations to purchase the “Obama Commemorative Dollar -- Washed with Gold and an Instant Collector’s Item!” As “Change” turns history upside down, I am tempted to take my precious coin of great price to Obama’s Sermon on the Hill on Inauguration Day. Perhaps, if I stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and hold it high, Obama will bless it for me from the Banks of the Reflecting Pool. After all, as our Latinist daughter observes, “Obama” spelled backwards means “I Will Love.”
The Obama juggernaut has done more damage to the country in a month than LBJ could do in five years, and Republicans seem powerless to stop it. They can’t even harness serious grass-roots opposition to the trillions of dollars that have flowed out of Washington since October. This is nothing new. The GOP has been losing credibility ever since it started backing George Bush’s “big government conservatism” years ago. Bush’s spending spree, coupled with the Iraq War, rivaled LBJ’s “guns and butter” policies during the Viet Nam War for profligacy. By last fall, when Bush bailed out the banks and bankers who (along with their political supporters) had gotten us into this mess, the Republican brand was virtually worthless.
For a while, GOP party regulars avoided that unhappy subject, but the tide is turning. One sign of candor comes from Newt Gingrich, who recently launched a salvo at “the Bush-Obama big government, big bureaucracy, politician-empowering, high-tax, high-inflation and high-interest-rate system.” Clearly, Gingrich recognizes that he risks alienating some pro-Bush stalwarts in the GOP, but two factors are on his side: first, Obama is going to keep on blaming Bush, so Gingrich may as well try lumping them together. After all, rhetoric aside, their approaches to the economic “rescue” do have a lot in common, and Newt wants to appear as the independent voice of reason. Second, in spite of the best efforts of Democratic spinmeisters, Newt knows that any alienation will fade as 2010 approaches and new faces come onto the scene (along with his old one, of course).
Gingrich is astute. As early as 2005, he privately acknowledged that 2008 would be a very tough presidential year. He told friends then that he was looking instead at a run in 2012 – seven years away. Candidate Gingrich would sound the “don’t blame me” mantra, since he had left congress long before Bush and congressional Republicans doubled the national debt by 2008. But he will have some serious explaining to do. For example, while he now insists that we turn our attention homeward from Iraq, he was once an ardent supporter of expanding the American war into Syria and Iran, in an effort to revolutionize the entire Middle East. Moreover, while his criticism of big government is appealing, he will have trouble attracting pro-family types. For one thing, every time he stages a political comeback, he seems to have a new wife. But he’s not ignoring the religious right: he just sent me an autographed copy of his “Discovering God In America.”
Sure, Newt’s trying to cover all the bases. But his frontal attack on Bush’s contributions to big government certainly confirm the widespread desperation in the GOP as it seeks new leaders and what’s left of its principles. Frankly, I wonder if any of the “old guard” Republicans can lead the GOP out of the desert where it now wanders. Only time will tell.
There Must Be Something In The Water
A Boston Globe series, oozing oceans of sympathy for the ailing senior senator from Massachusetts, sports a revealing headline: “Ted Kennedy had to weather the death of Mary Jo Kopechne,” it moans, and he thus lost an easy shot at the presidency.
Poor Teddy. All that bad weather. Tears all around, I’m sure. How thoughtless, really, of dying Mary Jo to ruin the career of a Kennedy. Imagine how much better off we’d all be if that senseless girl just hadn’t climbed into the back seat of Teddy’s car! Why, we could be enjoying five-cent Havanas, ten-cent gas, and years of peace and prosperity orchestrated by generations of benevolent Kennedys.
Instead, we’ve just had forty years of Ted’s bearing the baleful burden of bad weather, all because of that selfish Mary Jo.
So has the rest of the country, thanks in large part to liberals like John Kerry, the junior senator from Massachusetts, for whom last week was not his finest hour. The man who has serially wed increasingly wealthy women has harsh words for those who have earned their own money and want to spend it themselves:
"I've supported many tax cuts over the years, and there are tax cuts in this proposal,” Senator Kerrey reportedly said on the senate floor. “But a tax cut is non-targeted. If you put a tax cut into the hands of a business or family, there's no guarantee that they're going to invest that or invest it in America. They're free to go invest anywhere that they want if they choose to invest."
Apparently our families can be “guaranteed” that our money is being spent wisely only if we let Senator Kerry spend it for us. I can imagine him proposing to his wealthy wives…. “Let me show you how to spend your money wisely, my dear.” His approach does go a long way to explain why Massachusetts, with some of the highest taxes in the country, has one of the lowest per-capita charitable contribution rates of any state in the union.
Evangelical broadcaster Pat Robertson recently observed that Obama "has the makings of a great president." When Rush Limbaugh said “I hope he fails,” Dan Gilgoff of U.S. News asked Robertson to comment.
“That was a terrible thing to say,” replied Robertson. “I mean, he's the president of all the country. If he succeeds, the country succeeds. And if he doesn't, it hurts us all. Anybody who would pull against our president is not exactly thinking rationally.”
Well, to paraphrase Bill Clinton, it depends on what your meaning of “succeed” is.
Long ago, Soviet overtures of “peaceful coexistence” appealed to many Americans in the midst of a tense Cold War. It even took some time for our own State Department to realize what that concept meant to the USSR: “be so kind as not to interfere while we continue our conquests.” The sense of urgency created around the passage of the recent “stimulus” bill invites similar scrutiny. The bill was not an emergency measure written to solve the immediate financial crisis; it was a catch-all for every crackpot initiative ever conceived by left-wing senate offices and liberal lobbying firms, unions, and the rest of the tax-consumer peanut gallery, outrageous bills that would never have passed on their own merits. All over Capitol Hill, staffers rifled through old filing cabinets, looking for last year’s losers, because this year they could be winners. The “stimulus” was Christmas in February for special interests everywhere.
Health-care rationing is there, even though Hillary’s plan could not get a single vote in 1994; gun control is there, even though it could never pass on its own, no matter what party runs the congress. There is even four billion dollars for community agitators who have pledged “civil disobedience” on behalf of the poor. It is part Juan and Evita Peron, who ruined Argentina but were loved by “the poor,” and part Salvador Allende, whose shock troops (call them “community organizers”) I watched in 1973, marching through Santiago’s streets, menacing the citizenry and threatening violence to any critics.
Gerhart Niemeyer, America’s foremost scholar on Marxism-Leninism, wrote that “what Lenin demanded was that Communists use bourgeois institutions without keeping faith with them, that they participate solely with the intent of destruction, and that they obtain the institutions’ power but deny their order.”
Obama has used the congress, our most revered constitutional institution, to seize and maintain more power. He will not give it up lightly.
When Obama promised “change,” and then hired virtually the entire Clinton Administration, I was admittedly confused. I thought the age of “change” would avoid inviting the countless scandals that permeated those happy times when Bill Clinton was a Master of the Universe, and impeached. But already we are confronted with a classic Clinton Moment: “A full-court press by Obama’s team is likely to keep ethical questions from sinking the nomination of Treasury Secretary-designee Timothy Geithner,” reports the Politico. After all, Geithner only owes tens of thousands of dollars in back income taxes. He also had an illegal domestic servant, an offense which was considered to be so serious even in the Clinton years that two Clinton nominees for Attorney General were bounced on that account (Hillary Clinton, who was running that show, wanted a woman, so she finally found one who was unmarried and thus unencumbered by children who would need a nanny: Janet Reno).
The Clinton Administration was so rife with crime that America eventually yawned at reports several times a day of new malfeasance, enough special prosecutors to staff the Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn, and stonewalls that would stretch to Rome if put end to end (OK, maybe Alcatraz). The current case of Mrs. Clinton, soon to be another thoroughly unqualified Secretary of State, is instructive. Hillary’s rap sheet would be as long as the waiting list for Redskins season tickets if she were a private citizen, but that did not deter senators of both parties from gushing over her at her confirmation hearings.
Their reception was a far cry from John Ashcroft’s experience eight years ago. The fact that Ashcroft was probably the most qualified Attorney General candidate in recent history did not deter the Democrats – we’re talking about his colleagues – from raking him over the coals at his confirmation hearings, goaded by the usual suspects -- left-wingers and the garden variety pro-aborts. Had Ashcroft exuded even a whiff of impropriety, his nomination would have been dead, of course. Witness the contrast to Hillary, who fairly reeks of criminality in every rehearsed smile. The only conclusion we can draw is that the Democrats are not going to change the beltway rule that has now, alas, become bipartisan: “Criminals Welcome!”
I worked for a major Chicago bank right out of college forty years ago, and was assigned to do some records research in the office of the Cook County Treasurer. Yes, this is the same
“Yesterday!” Steve answered.
“Where ya workin’?”
Apparently, Obama has brought
Geithner will be handing out trillions, much of it in secret, to his banking pals. But hey, why worry? Isn’t that what change is all about?
Elvis And The Kings
If you ever want to use Elvis Presley’s image, recordings, or lyrics, be prepared to pay big bucks. His estate jealously guards those crown jewels of the man whom folks in
Well, Elvis is not the only bygone king demanding royalties. Over the years, the family of Martin Luther King, Jr., has made untold millions from licensing his works, sending a hefty
I’ve always gotten a kick out of this charade because I was teaching in
The observation of Eric Hoffer, the Longshoreman-philosopher, is probably most appropriate here: “Every great movement begins as a cause, becomes a business, and ends as a racket.”
Henry's Last Gasp
Henry Kissinger just won’t quit. Since 1957, he has advocated a New World Order, and he has seen every crisis since as a perfect opportunity for us all to join hands and leap into his one-world future. His latest piece is a conspiracy theorist’s dream, where he resonates his international
Henry probably thinks that would be less work than cleaning house and throwing out the bipartisan gang of self-serving third-raters who have hijacked the American dream for their own power and profit. Instead, the virtuous people of Federalist 57 should relent, honor the hijackers' claim to superiority, let Henry trash the Constitution, and then hire him to write a New One.
You gotta hand it to Henry, he's got chutzpah. He has lived a life of self-indulgent, studied megalomania. “The alternative to a new international order is chaos,” he writes. Well, another alternative is the Constitution, but that’s pretty passé, isn’t it?
Henry’s logic is pretty simple: whatever he and his decadent pals can't control is, by definition, evil. It can be surmounted only by a "global agreement" with new "general rules" that everybody must follow. Big Brother, call your office.
Henry, meet the Leviathan. Unfortunately, Hobbes was wrong and Aquinas and Jefferson were right. The alternative to Henry’s nightmare isn't chaos. The alternative is freedom, following "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God."
Two Different Worlds
This year, the March For Life comes just two days after the inauguration. Somehow, I don’t think that many of those “Catholics for Obama” in town for the festivities will be staying on to join us in the March. And what about all those “Catholic” senators and representatives who are “personally opposed to abortion , but …”?
Well, I guess they just want to keep it personal.
Sirs, I here present unto you
your undoubted Queen:
Wherefore all you who are come this day
to do your homage and service,
Are you willing to do the same?
The People signify their willingness and joy, by loud and repeated acclamations, all with one voice crying out,
GOD SAVE QUEEN ELIZABETH.
Then the trumpets shall sound.
[From the British Coronation Ceremony, June 2, 1953]
One of my favorite bumper stickers of all time appeared in 1960, when Barry Goldwater first sought the Republican nomination:
“Kennedy for King, Goldwater for President!”
The lavish love-fest of the media with Jack Kennedy back then was so smarmy that it was laughable. So was “Camelot.” But those poseurs were on to something -- there is something special about the royals. They are exempt from criticism, above the fray, and respected by all as a symbol of the unity of the realm.
That might go a long way to explain the magical portrayal of Obama that his handlers have projected to the world, courtesy of a swooning popular culture and a media in sheer rapture. There are some distinctions, of course: while Elizabeth’s coronation was followed by an Anglican Mass, Obama’s secular coronation was acclaimed by the masses on the Mall. But religious symbols fairly oozed around him: ministers anointed the Capitol doors; Oprah produced an elaborate YouTube video, featuring a Hollywood cast of thousands, chanting in unison, “I pledge, to be a servant to our president, and all mankind.”
This is nothing new in our collapsing culture, where secularism has long vied to displace religion not only in practice and principle, but in symbol. Why else would John F. Kennedy’s grave boast an “eternal flame” (probably the only one he ever had), than to anoint him as a secular saint, even a martyr?
These Manichees know what they are doing. Why else did George Washington, who could easily have been acclaimed king of the liberated colonies had he so desired, reject all trappings of royalty and serve only two terms in office? Our Founding Fathers believed that a republican government had no place for royalty. It was our Constitution that was revered – if we obeyed it. But Obama adroitly stakes his majestic claim by pretending to rise above politics: “we simply cannot afford the same old gridlock and partisan posturing in Washington.” In the past, these tired words were just pleasant banalities; but Obama, who is a cross between a secular savior and Lady Di, employs them to make his “change” not only irreversible, but unassailable – by secular divine right.
Hence, thou shalt not defy Our Dear Leader. However, if you want to deify him, no problem! On the Left, the full-court press is well under way. At New York University, a medieval literature professor urges her students to consider who is the most likely person in our time to receive the stigmata: it is Obama, she assures them. At George Mason University in Virginia, a history teacher surprises the students in her “Introduction To American History” course. “You’ve probably studied all this in high school, so we’re going to concentrate on Obama this semester,” she coos. Quiz at eleven.
The message is plain: Obama’s pedestal is so high that to criticize him is tantamount to a secular sin against the civil society that he so benevolently deigns to save and to rule. That is what “change” is really all about.
Maya Angelou is a laughable poet, but she has a zealot’s grip on the secular scripture: “We needed him. We the race needed him. We the American people, we needed him. And out of that great need, I believe he came. Barack Obama, Senator Barack Obama came,” she told the BBC.
Obama came. Oprah and Maya are his prophets. This is what we’re up against.
Tell It To The Judge
“Thou Shalt Not Steal. The Government Hates Competition”
[Sign in Dr. Ron Paul’s Congressional Office]
“The [ethical] bar that we set is the highest that any administration in the country has ever set,” says Obama’s White House, echoing Bill Clinton’s unforgettable promise to produce “the most ethical administration in history.” In order to fulfill that pledge, Obama has apparently hired every Clinton retread still living -- but it hasn’t helped.
“The problem with socialism,” Maggie Thatcher once said, “is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” Well, Obama’s administration wants socialism, all right, but they sure don’t want to pay for it with their money. The ethical bloom has come off the royal rose as one leading Democrat after another has suddenly discovered, to his surprise, that, they simply forgot to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars of back taxes that they owed.
Among this veritable multitude, three deserve particular notice.
Obama’s nominee for Treasury, Timothy Geithner, apologized, then apologized deeply, for his “careless mistake” of not paying the IRS tens of thousands of dollars, and was then confirmed, thus putting a successful tax cheat in charge of the IRS. Even more reprehensible are Chris Dodd and Tom Daschle, who deserve a category all their own. Dodd, the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, got a secret sweetheart deal worth $75,000 from a bank that he bailed out. Because he is a pro-abortion Catholic Democrat, the media have not called it a bribe. He will continue to be in charge of handing out taxpayer money to some banks, but not others.
Then there’s “Catholic” Tom Daschle. Twenty years ago he dumped his first wife and married a young Washington lobbyist. In 2003, when his bishop told him to stop identifying himself as a Catholic, Senator Daschle (who lost his bid for re-election in 2004), took to the Senate floor to denounce his bishop as a member of the ‘religious right.’ Since 2004, he has made five million dollars as a Washington insider. He just forgot to pay taxes on a lot of it.
None of these frauds will go to jail, of course. Meanwhile, one Randall Bradley Jones, who ran six houses of prostitution in Houston (which means that he is in a similar line of business), faces five years in federal prison. His crime? Not paying his income taxes.
Losers Claim Victory
Conservatism is up for grabs these days, and so is the GOP. So now appears a crowd of “experts” who support a “broader” Republican Party (Nelson Rockefeller, call your office). That new, improved party needs the thirty million or so votes that pro-family forces have delivered in the past, of course but it suggests that, well, maybe we can just shut up about our principles, because, well, that’s why we lost.
Not surprisingly, the touted “reformers” are actually the same crowd that advocated the worldwide crusade for democracy abroad and “big government” conservatism at home that brought the GOP crashing to defeat in 2006 and disaster in 2008. Life has never been their priority, but during the Bush years they held their nose and put up with us. Now, through a constant barrage of “broadening,” they want us to believe that a pro-life GOP would just be too “narrow” to win. They have a lot of support in the media and, naturally, among Democrats, since their success would condemn the GOP to permanent minority status.
Did the Russians hate Stalin? Did the Germans hate Hitler?
Let’s be more specific: did the 13 million killed in the Nazi camps hate Hitler? How about Stalin’s twenty million? Mao’s tens of millions? Castro’s? Pol Pot’s? Kim Il Sung’s?
And what about tyranny’s Catholic victims? When we read about the martyrs, we marvel at the way they forgive their torturers. But they were saints. What should we run-of-the-mill, uncanonizable Catholics do when tyranny closes in?
Not everybody thinks – or lives, or loves -- with the Catholic mind. In fact, hate seems to be getting more popular in recent years. “Evil currently stalks the earth because there isn't enough hate,” writes Shmuley Boteach on a conservative website (Boteach has been called “one of the world's most prominent rabbis”). Upon hearing that Yassir Arafat had died, when President Bush said “God bless his soul,” conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby countered, “God, I am quite sure, will damn him for eternity." And in a long-winded article in First Things, Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik celebrates “The Virtue of Hate” – grounded, apparently, in the Talmud, not the New Testament.
The Catholic call to love and forgiveness does not resonate universally. Of course, it’s not always easy for Catholics, either. Yes, we are taught to hate the sin but love the sinner. But aren’t we sometimes sorely tempted to hate not only the diktat, but the dictator? As George Orwell’s 1984 brilliantly reveals, loving Big Brother is a tall order. Yet, in the past few years our country has been brought to the brink of ruin by a band of profligates. The blame game is in high gear. At the moment, our attention is drawn by the media and politicians to the bankers and financiers as the villains who have brought on this collapse. But just as much ire could be directed at the politicians who pursued their private priorities, at home and abroad, instead of serving the common good and honestly administering the laws and the government to protect the common man. Their number could be legion. What they do is hateful. Are they?
“It Can’t Happen Here”
Riots are currently plaguing in the capitals of various European countries with troubled economies. Will they find their way to our own streets? An uncomfortable number of my neighbors in rural Virginia are not taking any chances. They are buying ammunition -- by the case, not the box. If past is prologue, in the case of insurrection (of which Jefferson was a big fan), our political leaders are not likely to come out on the balcony of the presidential palace like Romania’s Nicolae Ceauşescu and get taken to the wall by a firing squad. No, they will call out the troops to “restore order,” pass ever-larger “stimulus” bills to rob anyone who still has any money, and waste it on their politically-connected friends and supporters. After all, virtually every other country in the world has experienced such convulsions. Why not us?
This is the way of the world. We Americans have, in fact, been miraculously spared from many (but certainly not all) of the effects of domestic corruption in our brief history. Worldwide, corruption is the rule, not the exception. I have lived in corrupt countries. There the sun still comes up in the east, and the basics of life can go on -- you just have to bribe everybody to get anything done. And if you pay your prescribed taxes, you are certifiably insane, since the corrupt politicians will take everything you have if you let them.
When I was growing up in Cold War America, children often heard, “it can’t happen here” – a stern and possibly Pollyanna assertion, given that the most educated population in Europe in the early twentieth century was Germany’s. The “it” referred to the revolutionary devastation that was then convulsing the world. It couldn’t “happen here,” we were told, because we were protected by our traditions, our history, our common faith, and the Constitution.
Today, more than fifty years later, it’s fair to ask, why can’t it happen here? Faith, tradition, history, and the Constitution have been tossed in the back seat, and eventually thrown out the window, by the regnant ideology that now predominates in both political parties, the intelligentsia, and the permanent (and ever-expanding) government. The Obama government leans so hard to the left that the Catholic Church, Catholic institutions, and Catholic families are in real danger: they could come under attack at the drop of an Executive Order. So Catholics have to ask, “what is to be done?”
Over the past 30 years or so, many Catholics have been loyal defenders of the GOP because it became increasingly identified as the pro-life party. That might have been true of the Republican Party of the past, but it is true no longer. Today, both parties are trapped in the mire of socialism. The more ignorant they are of the dire circumstances our country faces, the more power they reflexively accrue to themselves. The Culture of Life is not high on either party’s agenda, alas. The economic decline and rampant inflation that the government’s latest “rescue” measures virtually guarantee will challenge Catholics for decades to come. Young families will have to make major sacrifices if they want to conform to Humanae Vitae in such hard times – if they want to be saints! One need only recall that the average Russian woman in the USSR had eight abortions during her lifetime. Ever since the publication of Humanae Vitae in 1968, American bishops have been reluctant to preach this dimension of the Gospel of Life. Will harder times make them more vocal? Or even more silent?
Change We Can Believe In
The Catholic approach to politics has changed before in American history, and it will soon have to change again. Recent trends are curious: while the people in the pews have gravitated towards the GOP, our bishops have gravitated towards the Democrats, and have drifted effortlessly with them to the left. We should declare both of these alliances obsolete. Today, neither party is the “Catholic” party. As Catholics, we must sunder our party ties and regain the independence from government which we have not enjoyed for over 100 years.
Catholics must abjure our past loyalty oaths to the party of our choice. The worst politicians prosper and the best throw in the towel. Yes, we must render unto Caesar, but we don’t have to canonize him. Nor must we submit to a shotgun marriage with his regime. Catholics are called on now to take a firm stand, independent of the state, and reject the state’s attempts at bribery (with other people’s money, of course) that has muzzled the Catholic Church’s voice on the most important moral issues that confront our country.
If the Church begins sounding a firm and certain trumpet, we cannot expect politicians to repent and change their ways. In fact, many are likely to become hostile to the Church that they have, up until now, been able to con. Assume, for instance, that a couple of dozen of the most prominent Catholic politicians who support abortion rights are formally excommunicated. Don’t expect them to fall on their knees and repent like Henry at Canossa. No, expect them to react like Senator Patrick Leahy, who has “always thought also that those bishops and archbishops who for decades hid pederasts … should be indicted.” Even harder times are coming.
Obama’s planned tax hikes that will target the “wealthy” (that is, the top 5% of wage-earners who already pay over 60% of federal income taxes) also pose a lethal threat to religious charities that depend on voluntary donations (and I am not aware of any that don’t). Obama intends not only to raise the to tax rate on those top-tier taxpayers, but also to limit the amount of charitable deductions that those taxpayers will be allowed to deduct on their income-tax returns. Well, as the old saying goes, “if you tax something, you get less of it,” so Obama should not be surprised if charities suffer even more lost donations than the dismal economy has already caused.
In fact, Obama not only anticipates just such a decline – he has apparently already planned for it. According to the American Spectator, “Obama is telling charities, ‘Don't worry about the tax increase on your donors, government will be here to make up the difference if you have a down year because of my policies.’” The Spectator cites Capitol Hill staffers who are actually writing the legislation, who warn that if a charity receives any compensation from the “federal fund to offset charitable losses,” the money will come with strings firmly attached. “If, say, a Catholic hospital sought and received those funds, it would be required to adhere to federal polices on issues like abortion. Or the hospital could simply not seek the funds to make up the difference,” the staffer tells the Spectator.
This attempt at intimidation puts the Catholic Church in a very tight spot. Our bishops already receive billions a year in government aid for Catholic Charities alone. Catholic hospitals and universities get billions more. In Washington, there is always a quid pro quo. If the Church takes the quid, what quo are we giving in return? Could it be the silence of countless bishops regarding pro-abortion Catholic politicians? Or the mush-laden “guidance” that gave 55% of Catholic voters the USCCB’s imprimatur to vote for Obama? Whatever we’ve paid so far, Obama wants more. He is targeting all voluntary charity, discouraging charitable contributions from Catholic donors, and putting a gun at the head of submissive charities, forcing them to buckle under to the onerous anti-life regulations that the Obama Administration announces daily. It constitutes a nationalization of charity, pure and simple.
For Pope Benedict, deus caritas est. For Obama, it’s Caesar caritas est.
The End of the Affair?
For many years our bishops have traditionally been Democrat-friendly, but many are finally waking up to the aggressive war on the Church that is being waged by the core constituencies that control the Obama-Clinton Democratic party – the feminists, the pro-abortionists, and the homosexual activists. In California, even liberal bishops were shocked at the vulgar hostility directed at the Church and other supporters of Proposition Eight, the successful constitutional amendment that confirmed the traditional legal principle that marriage is between a man and a woman. Now, in Connecticut, two rabidly pro-homosexual legislators, State Sen. Andrew McDonald and State Rep. Michael Lawlor, have directed a shot across the Church’s bow with legislation that essentially demands that the Church hands over its administrative functions to the state. Admittedly, this is just one more incidence of petulant outrage from vexed “gay rights” types, but as of this writing the state legislature has not censured these malefactors or expelled them for their blatant bigotry, even though the sole target of their legislation was Catholic parishes (as of this writing, the legislation has been withdrawn for review by the state attorney general).
Ironically, while the sponsors claim that the legislation aims to avoid mismanagement of funds, they are silent on the most egregious case of church management in the state, perpetrated by the gay pastor of the most wealthy parish in the Bridgeport Diocese. The priest, the affable (and now former) Father Michael Fay, flaunted his flaming homosexuality for years, parish regulars tell the Wanderer, and is now serving time in state prison for stealing and spending hundreds of thousands of church funds on his New York boyfriend. Another Bridgeport Diocese pastor, Father Michael Moynihan, has since been removed for stealing hundreds of thousands from his parish for his New York boyfriend in a case strikingly similar to that of Fay).
Bridgeport Bishop William Lori condemned the McDonald-Lawlor bill, which he called “a thinly-veiled attempt to silence the Catholic Church on the important issues of the day, such as same-sex marriage.” His observation represents a great step forward – finally, an important Church leader has recognized that a rogue government will vindictively punish those who disagree with it. Now if only our bishops recognized that the billions they receive might be a reward from a rogue government for their silence -- a silence on which Nancy Pelosi, Chris Dodd, Ted Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, Dick Durbin, and countless other pro-abortion legislators depend every time they identify themselves as Catholics and present themselves to receive the Eucharist.
The late Avery Cardinal Dulles once observed that, in these troubled times, while the Church required “extraordinary” bishops, most of our bishops were “ordinary” men. In this age of the laity, one would expect that extraordinary laymen and laywomen would step forward to sustain our shepherds, and undoubtedly many have. However, if the bishops were to look for guidance from lay leaders, they might be distressed at how uncertain is the trumpet’s sound.
Consider the challenges confronting Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C. Since he arrived in the nation’s capital, he has been confronted with pro-abortion Nancy Pelosi’s “Inaugural Mass” at Trinity College, the host of pro-abortion legislators who regularly receive the Eucharist in his archdiocese, and, most recently, the nomination to Obama’s cabinet of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, whose archbishop has publicly barred her from receiving the Eucharist. Now comes news of the nomination of the former Mayor of Washington, abortion-rights supporter Anthony Williams, to be a Knight of Malta.
Founded in the eleventh century, the Order of Malta is older than most of the religious orders in the world. Its members are drawn from the ranks of the influential, the wealthy, and the accomplished. Its members perform remarkable corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Among them are many of Cardinal Dulles’s “extraordinary men” who also provide substantial financial support to the Church. But if Archbishop Wuerl looked to these leaders for a sententia laicorum communis to inform his priorities, we could not blame him if he concluded that the Culture of Life was not very high on their list – even though the Church expects the laity to take the lead in issues regarding secular government and legislation (Can. 212§3).
Most Reverend Thomas Welsh, R.I.P.
Bishop Thomas Welsh, the founding bishop of the Arlington Diocese, was buried last week. A modest, holy, and very effective man, he is the reason I first moved to Arlington almost thirty years ago. His new diocese was created both to reflect the growth of Virginia’s Washington suburbs (“We’re the bedroom of Washington,” he told me in 1977), and to separate out northern Virginia from the very liberal Diocese of Richmond, which until then had encompassed the entire Commonwealth (when Virginia’s population was four percent Catholic). Bishop Welsh attracted many wonderful priests and encouraged the founding of many vibrant apostolates in the diocese, and laid a solid foundation for an orthodoxy that has survived the vicissitudes of the passing years, by the grace of God. May he rest in peace.
Write Christopher Manion and discuss (or criticize) his Wanderer articles at the Catholic Guys Internet blog (http://thecatholicguys.blogspot.com).
Ever since World War II, American diplomacy has taken on an informal tone, simply ignoring technicalities like the Constitution. At Yalta, FDR secretly gave away Eastern Europe and its fifty million Christians to our ally, Josef Stalin. In similar fashion, with the “Kennedy- Khrushchev Accords” JFK secretly agreed with the Soviets to allow Castro to remain in power in Cuba.
The courts have determined that all of these agreements, legally termed “executive compacts,” have the same status as treaties, and are thus recognized as part of the “Supreme Law of the Land” -- even if their content is never revealed to the public. Thus my consternation when I read the London Telegraph headline: “Obama reaffirms belief in the special relationship with Britain.” The “relationship” referred to is one so special that it has never been articulated, much less incorporated into a treaty that is publicized and debated in the senate, where it must be consented to by two-thirds of the senators present and voting.
On the third of March, British Prime Minister Gordon visited the Obama White House. Brown, the successor to Tony Blair, is a failing politician in charge of an even more quickly failing state once known as the British Empire (which has retreated from most of her imperial colonies, save those stolen from Argentina, Ireland, and Spain -- all three of which, by sheer coincidence, are Catholic). Mr. Brown brought to America a lofty new goal to share with his “special” friends: as the London Times reports, “The prime minister will borrow from the rhetoric of Franklin Roosevelt, who introduced the government-financed New Deal to tackle the US Depression of the 1930s. He will argue that his 21st century ‘global new deal’ will also require public spending on a huge world-wide scale.” Mr. Brown himself described the goal of this undertaking as “a more stable world where we defeat not only global terrorism but global poverty, hunger and disease.”
A noble cause indeed – why, it might take two terms! But, as our favorite congressman used to shout from the back benches, “Where are we going to get the money?” That’s a good question, and you will not be pleased to hear the answer, because, since Britain is broke, the money is going to come from us. Mr. Brown faces dismal electoral prospects at home, and is obviously looking to stay in office by every possible means. Why not do it with our money? So he promises to lead “a genuinely new era of international partnership” -- which we will pay for.
Now of course all this is preposterous leftish blather, even for a Brit. But while Mr. Brown tries to pick our pocket, we hear nary a word from our elected representatives. After all, we have that “special relationship.” Consider: according to the World Bank, there are two billion people in the world who live on less than two dollars a day. With a mere two billion from the U.S. taxpayer, Mr. Brown can double their living standard -- only for a day, of course, assuming that the bureaucrats passing out the money will work for free. But lifting them out of poverty for an entire year will only cost us an additional seven trillion! And that’s only ten percent of all the liabilities, funded and unfunded, of the U.S. Government. So, Mr. Brown, why not go for ten years? It will only double our debt, and think of all the good it will do!
Because these “special relationships” have the power of treaties, they are not only very secret, but also very dangerous. And they can cost much more than money: we have a similar unwritten “special relationship” with Israel, whose government Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has promised to support “forever.” Perhaps she overlooked the fact that the U.S. Senate has never debated a security treaty with Israel, much less consented to one. Yet our security responsibilities to that country, as well as to Iraq, Pakistan, Mexico, and countless other governments with whom we have no valid security treaties, are as immense as they are hidden.
“Get In Their Face”
That’s what Obama told his supporters to do, and he’s off to a flying start. The latest provocation arrived with the selection of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as the new Secretary of Health and Human Services. Briefly described, she will be in charge of advancing domestically the Culture of Death in America for Obama.
Mrs. Sebelius is one of those Catholics who has a real bishop – in this case, Archbishop John Naumann of Kansas City. The Kansas City Star, irate that it does not dictate Church policy, insists that the archbishop is interfering with “good government” because he has publicly advised Sebelius not to receive the Eucharist. But the good archbishop is the shepherd of souls, not pols, and calmly explains his action this way: “ if an individual persistently acts publicly in a manner that is inconsistent with fundamental moral teachings of the church and continues to receive Holy Communion, a bishop may feel obliged to intervene for the good of the individual and to protect others from being misled.”
The archbishop goes on to say that Sebelius’s actions are scandalous, and explains why: “"To give scandal means more than to cause other people to be shocked or upset by what one does. Rather, one's action leads someone else to sin. Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter.” In that regard, the archbishop explains that his action was based on Sebelius’s “30-year history of advocating and acting in support of legalized abortion.”
As advertised, Obama’s shock troops have gone into action. One front group called “Catholics United” (Hmmmm … I must remind the Pope to trademark that word “Catholic”) accuses Archbishop Naumann of “being more interested in trying to score political points against the governor than in crafting effective abortion policy within the reality of politics.” This outburst follows the pattern of pro-abortion politician who want to be identified as “Catholics.” They accuse the Church of “using the Eucharist as a weapon” a revealing charge, because to this crowd all life is political. Hence, those responsible for our salvation should cool it.
Obama’s supporters insist that Sebelius’s cabinet appointment represents the triumph of “good government,” Do we need more proof that Obama’s government is bad? Isn’t it unwise for our bishops to continue accepting billions of taxpayer dollars a year from such a government?
A U.S. customs officer at the Canadian border recently pepper-sprayed a driver who had offended the officer by asking him politely to say “please.” The Customs spokesman explained to me that officers are trained to do so when a driver is “noncompliant to an order (in this case, ‘turn off your car’) in a dangerous situation.”
The message here is straightforward: you should treat every encounter you have with the government as a “dangerous situation.” Is the Child Protection Services coming to take your kids because your homeschool curriculum does not include "diversity-based sex education"? Is the ATF coming to take your guns because Obama says only the government (and criminals, of course) should have guns? Does "Social Services" want to inspect your house before you are allowed to care for your ailing spouse at home?
Well, now. Here's what not to tell them as they break down your door: “Say 'please'!”
Write Christopher Manion and discuss (or criticize) his Wanderer articles at the Catholic Guys Internet blog (http://thecatholicguys.blogspot.com).
With every passing day, President Obama’s true priorities -- as opposed to those he expressed during the campaign -- come more clearly into focus. As far as “change” is concerned, a lot of things haven’t changed that much at all. In foreign policy, U.S. combat forces will remain in Iraq until all areas there are “secure”; U.S. troop numbers in Afghanistan will continue to increase; Latin America moves ever further left, ignored as usual by administrations of both parties; Mexico continues to collapse, with barely a shrug from the U.S. Economically, Obama’s “big government socialism” just puts George Bush’s careening “big government conservatism” into high gear, with a sharp jerk to the left: more of everything -- welfare, government, deficits, taxes, and corruption. The endless bailouts feature the same cast of politicians and corporate leaders, still fighting over how they will spend more of our money, while the budget deficits and the national debt continue to rise, just like before.
There is, however, one critical area of government policy that has changed plenty – and for the worse: The Obama Administration has declared an all-out war on the Culture of Life, and the pace of his offensive is simply breathtaking. Not only has Obama rushed to reverse by executive order every pro-life policy within reach; he has also made sure that every single appointment in his administration goes to seasoned, cunning, and committed veterans of the Culture of Death. Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, and Kathleen Sebelius are only the most prominent diehard pro-aborts on the Obama team. The president is making sure that every appointee throughout the administration and the federal courts toes the line when it comes to denying life at every possible stage. This is a major league litmus test, and everybody has to pass it.
But doesn’t every administration do the same thing ? Didn’t Ronald Reagan appoint only conservatives? Well, in the vaunted language of indignant politicians, “nothing could be further from the truth.” Sure, Ronald Reagan was a conservative. But when he chose Bush the elder as his vice-president, the sharp elbows began their work. And once Bush’s former campaign manager, James Baker, became Reagan’s White House Chief of Staff, the gloves came off.
A president can name some three thousand appointees to the executive branch. There they manage a couple of million entrenched bureaucrats. Unfortunately, those couple of million folks are usually inclined to be liberals (witness the agendas of their unions, which are among the most left-wing – and powerful -- in the country). So when a Democrat is in the White House, his appointees will only be making sure that the bureaucracy is doing what comes naturally – that is, acting liberal. But when the president is a Republican, then every presidential appointee is facing a hostile work environment from day one – and the primary source of that hostility is the bureaucrats who are supposed to be working for him.
From Ronald Reagan’s White House, Jim Baker did everything he could to undermine the president’s conservative instincts. “Personnel is policy” was the mantra of the true believers who pursued conservative principles in those days. Well, Jim Baker made sure that he controlled the personnel. Yes, Ed Meese, Judge Bill Clark, and other stalwarts had their say, but Baker was the master manipulator, unencumbered by the principles that occupied most of the attention of the good guys. Baker proved his point with a vengeance when Vice President Bush finally succeeded Reagan in the White House. Baker’s first order of business was to cleanse the entire executive branch of any “Reaganaut” holdovers – and he was as thorough as Bill Clinton was when he fired all the U.S. attorneys in the country (except Michael Chertoff) on his first day in office.
That pitched battle goes a long way to explain how the record of the Reagan Administration was not so conservative as Reagan was. No such problem will plague the Obama team. These guys are all singing from the same hymn book, and the worst is yet to come.
The Poison Peanut Gallery Chimes In
The New York Times might be shrinking rapidly, but when it comes to bashing pro-lifers, it’s never been a shrinking violet. Its premier Sunday columnist Frank Rich often flaunts his contempt for religion and the right, but now he’s written our obituary. “The family-values dinosaurs that once stalked the earth — Falwell, Robertson, Dobson and Reed — are now either dead, retired or disgraced,” he chortles. In these hard times, “Culture wars are a luxury the country — the G.O.P. included — can no longer afford.”
So the war is over, and the Times won. Well, that was easy. For proof, Rich gloats that even “the two antiabortion Kansas Republicans in the Senate, Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, both endorsed [Governor Kathleen] Sebelius” to be Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services. But Rich ignores Sebelius’s Archbishop, Joseph, Naumann, who has publicly barred her from the Eucharist over her support for abortion. And Rich also ignores that most heinous of “family-values dinosaurs,” the Catholic Church, which (tremble) is vastly more popular even than the New York Times.
Will the “religious right” ever have a comeback? Well, “history is cyclical,” writes Rich – but there his predictive powers fail him. As Catholics know, history is headed only in one direction, and at its end lie only the Four Last Things. And the Times, alas, will not be one of them.
NYT Or CNS – Which is Worse?
When Archbishop Raymond Burke recently criticized the Catholic News Service (Rubble, February 19, 2009), he was on to something. A recent CNS article on Pope Benedict’s lifting of the excommunications of four SSPX bishops is a case in point. CNS cites “miscues at the Vatican” that prompted an “overwhelmingly negative reaction.” Whence came that thunderous outcry? The CNS author is silent. We must look to the New York Times to fill in the blank. There, Times Rome Bureau Chief Rachel Donadio identifies the source of the “overwhelmingly negative reaction.” Not surprisingly, it came from “Jewish groups and liberal Catholics.” Are you chagrined? Ms. Donadio pretends to be: “the pope is increasingly focused on internal doctrinal issues and seemingly unaware of how they might resonate in the larger world,” she frets.
While the Times trumps CNS on this story, it does not come off clean. Ms. Donadio calls the SSPX the “ultra-conservative Society of St. Pius X.” Well, a search of the Times archives reveals that its stories employ the term “ultra-conservative” approximately three times as often as the term “ultra-liberal.” Moreover, while “ultra-liberal” usually appears in a quote from a conservative who is complaining about a liberal personality or policy, “ultra-conservative” is routinely used by the Times writers themselves to describe anything or anyone they disagree with.
Now He Tells Us
Constitutional Law Professor Doug Kmiec played a prominent role in Obama’s campaign, and helped deliver a majority of the Catholic vote to the Democrat. On Saint Patrick’s Day, Kmiec who has Parkinson’s Disease, wrote to oppose Obama’s reversal of President Bush’s policy regarding embryonic stem-cell research. “To avoid cooperating with an intrinsic evil,” he declared, “this trembling hand is not to take hold of any medicine or participate in any medical treatment advanced by research involving the destruction of a human embryo.”
When I shared Kmiec’s article with a prominent pro-life leader, he replied simply: “Sanctimonious bull. He should have thought of this before he endorsed Obama.” I concur.
Write Christopher Manion and discuss (or criticize) his Wanderer articles at the Catholic Guys Internet blog (http://thecatholicguys.blogspot.com).
What’s In A Name?
What is a “brand” name? It’s the name of a commercial product or service that its owners want to drill into your head with so much advertising that the name is literally “branded” into your brain. Think Coke, Sony, or Nike. These companies trademark their brand names and carefully protect them, because they are among their most valuable assets.
A brand name can be worth billions. Fifty years ago, I went to school with one of the Maytag boys from Newton, Iowa, where the Maytags had made washing machines since 1907. Over the years, the picture of “Ol’ Lonely,” that smiling Maytag repairman who never had any work to do, was pounded into our subconscious by a phenomenal ad campaign combined with a superb product. By 2006, unfortunately, Maytag realized that it couldn’t keep up with its competitors, who had outsourced most of their production to cheaper foreign labor. The Maytag company couldn’t keep going, but the Maytag name was a household word, beloved by millions. What to do?
Along came the Whirlpool Corporation, a Maytag competitor. They bought Maytag for over a billion dollars, and kept right on making “Maytags,” relying on the famous name’s sterling reputation. But there was just one problem: the new Maytags didn’t work. They caught fire, flooded, caused mildew, and kept breaking down. The brand plummeted when outraged customers realized that they weren’t getting the fabled old Maytags from Newton, Iowa. Meanwhile, poor “Ol’ Lonely” was quietly retired.
When businesses are bought out, they don’t always inform their customers. In fact, preserving brand loyalty often requires that the original, popular product image be perpetuated -- and for good reason. As the new owners adjust to new market realities, the quality that made the product famous when it was part of a family enterprise often suffers. A few companies, like Wal-Mart, prosper by bragging about the savings their customers can reap by buying cheap Chinese goods, but most are not so ostentatious – especially those who have built up strong brand loyalty over the years.
A corporation normally assigns a dollar amount on its balance sheet to the accumulated value of its reputation and the brand names it owns. For instance, Procter and Gamble’s balance sheet reports assets of $93 billion in line items reflecting “Goodwill” and “Intangibles.” That staggering figure represents the value of the solid reputation of the company and of its brands, which include Crest, Herbal Essences, Pampers, and Tide. P&G relentlessly maintains high product quality and spends millions protecting its brands from being pirated or misrepresented.
For decades, every tube of Crest Toothpaste has borne a seal of approval from the American Dental Association. But if Procter and Gamble started pushing shoddy products – if the ADA announced that “Look, Mom! No cavities!” was false advertising – the company would suddenly be worth $93 billion less, without losing one tube of toothpaste, one office building, or one manufacturing plant. “Goodwill” and other invisible “intangibles” are that valuable.
“Welcome To Fighting Humanist U”
All this comes to mind as I read that Bishop Thomas G. Doran, of Rockford, Illinois, has written a letter to university president Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., in which he recommends that Notre Dame change its name to “The Humanist University of Northwest Indiana.” Bishop Doran has a point. Now more than ever, The University of Notre Dame is a secular business, a corporation – and a very rich one. Its administrators recognize that they have inherited valuable brand names which were dear to millions of Catholics when the university was run by a family – the priests of the Holy Cross. But after the 1960s, when they sold out to a competitor – the popular culture -- their product began to decline in quality. But the price did not decline. Why not? Brand loyalty. Long after Whirlpool bought out Maytag, long-time Maytag owners were still recommending them. My wife’s mother loved hers, and that’s why we got ours, years ago. I would heartily recommend it today, if I hadn’t read about the precipitous decline in quality since then.
So the lay board of trustees that now owns and runs Notre Dame inherited several valuable assets. Josef Pieper points out in his Guide to Saint Thomas Aquinas that the very word universitas appears for the first time in a papal document during the reign of Pope Innocent III in the early thirteenth century. As to “Notre Dame,” Bishop Doran advises Father Jenkins that “it is truly obscene for you to take such decisions as you have done in a university named for our Blessed Lady, whom the Second Vatican Council called the Mother of the Church.”
Truth In Advertising?
So “The University of Notre Dame” inherits her entire name and title from the loving hands of Holy Mother Church. But in 1967, Notre Dame formally divorced itself from the Catholic Church with the Land’O Lakes statement. Its new lay board, comprising several very sharp businessmen, did not junk the valuable brand names – “Catholic” and “Notre Dame” and all the trimmings. They wanted to pretend that their product represented the same orthodox, faithful brand. They knew what the market wanted to hear. So Notre Dame kept the gold on the dome, the Grotto, and the Log Chapel – valuable trademarks that used to symbolize doctrinal reality -- but they put new toothpaste in the tube. Now, the ADA’s experts would become quite upset if Procter & Gamble started replacing its toothpaste with Twinkie’s sugar filling, and dentists everywhere would quickly take notice. But what if the experts and the dentists went along with the deception? After all, spiritual decline in the education of souls is harder to detect than a cavity. Moreover, the Day of Reckoning for the soul stuffed with counterfeit teaching comes only in the afterlife – “beyond the bottom line,” so to speak.”
Notre Dame has divorced the Catholic Church, but, in biblical terms, it has “put her away quietly” (viz. Matt. 1:20). Oh, and it forgot to tell its students and alumni. In fact, many Catholics are under the impression that they’re still married. No bishop has issued an annulment, after all. In fact, Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago and the President of the USCCB, has sharply criticized the Obama invitation, but says that “the bishops don’t run Notre Dame.” Immediately, the brass-knuckled bag-man of the Chicago Democrat Machine, William E. Daley, accused Cardinal George (but not Father Jenkins) of “mixing religion and politics.” Whereupon Notre Dame’s limping light of heterodoxy, Father Richard McBrien, chimed in, telling the New York Times “This crowd are [sic] simply Republicans who are upset that Obama won the election — and they want to pick a fight.”
As Sherlock Holmes said to Dr. Watson, “Watson, when I say you are instructive, I mean I learn from your mistakes.” Father McBrien has let the cat out of the bag. For those supporting the Obama invitation, it’s all about politics. By reputation a theologian (a valuable brand, however abused these days), McBrien simply sees no moral problem with Obama at all.
A friend recently noted a troubling contradiction in McBrien’s approach to priorities. When shopping for a wide-screen TV, he’ll undoubtedly look for the sharpest picture he can find. But when it comes to morality, he will use every means possible to blur every distinction, every revealed truth. Well, when it comes his students at Notre Dame, we can only hope that they will learn from his mistakes.
Write Chris Manion and discuss (or criticize) his Wanderer articles at the Catholic Guys Internet blog (http://thecatholicguys.blogspot.com).
Thursday, April 23, 2009
HR 20 (S 324 in the Senate) is the "Melanie Blocker Stokes Mom's Opportunity to Access Health, Education, Research, and Support for Postpartum Depression Act." (Whew! You got that? Note that this is an "opportunity" not an intrusion.) This bill authorizes HHS to research post partum depression and the mental health of moms. It also authorizes "home-based health and support services" and calls for evaluating the benefits of screening all new mothers.
Now I don't know about you, but I find this chilling. In comes the white-coated government agent to the young mom. "Are you worried? Are you depressed? Are you anxious? (What brand new mom couldn't say yes to all of these questions?) Are you having problems sleeping? (No, I'm just up with the baby every two hours, idiot!) Well, have no fear, Mom. Have we got a pill for you!"
Evelyn Pringle, an investigative reporter, says "the true goal of the promoters of this act is to transform women of childbearing age into lifelong consumers of psychiatric treatment by screening women for a whole list of 'mood' and 'anxiety' disorders and not simply postpartum depression."
Well, the government covers the gamut for moms. Unwanted pregnancies are a "sexually transmitted disease" to be treated by abortion. (Money for the Tillers of this world who invest big bucks in politicians like Sibelius.) Motherhood is a disease requiring anti-anxiety and mood changing drugs and on-going psychiatric treatment. (More money to be shared with concerned politicians.) And for the kids we'll screen for hyperactivity and depression and prescribe ritalin and anti-depressants. (With government calling for mandatory screening of children in school for depression and other psychiatric problems. And, of course, more donations for the politicians.) Aren't we blessed to have the government and their big pharmacy donors so johnny-on-the-spot with cures for whatever ails you?
Only one question: Who will cure us of our intrusive and abusive government? If you don't subscribe to The Wanderer you should. What a wealth of information -- not to mention Chris Manion's great column!
Thursday, April 9, 2009
In 1974, I attended a meeting designed to probe the possibilities of rescuing Catholic education from the nebulous but ubiquitous “spirit of Vatican II.” At lunch, I joined Father Christopher O’Toole, C.S.C., and my own bishop, Leo Pursley, D.D., who had confirmed me years before. Why were these two luminaries interested in supporting efforts to preserve orthodox education for the next generation of college students? Their answer was blunt. “I’m doing penance,” said Father O’Toole, somberly. And Bishop Pursley nodded in agreement.
Penance for what? Well, Father O’Toole explained, as the Superior General of the Congregation of the Holy Cross throughout the 1960s, he had not done enough to prevent the secularization of Notre Dame during that fateful decade. Bishop Pursley, who had presided over the Diocese of Fort Wayne – South Bend for almost twenty years, also admitted that he had not been forceful enough with the university. That afternoon, both men agreed that, as far as Notre Dame was concerned, they had failed.
That conversation came to mind during the uproar that followed the recent announcement by Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., President of Notre Dame, that Barack Obama would address the Class of 2009 at commencement in May. This decision was shocking, yes -- but it was based on a fundamental error that goes back forty years.
In1967, a group of Catholic educators, led by Notre Dame President Theodore M. Hesburgh, met at Land’O Lakes, Wisconsin, and formally declared their independence from the Catholic Church. Alas, their motives were less than noble. Just two years before, LBJ’s Omnibus Education Act had opened the floodgates to federal funding of higher education, and Catholic colleges wanted a place at the trough. Notre Dame quickly adopted a lay board of trustees so it could receive federal money, and only a year later the other shoe fell when numerous Notre Dame faculty and religious roundly denounced Humanae Vitae.
In a 2007 Wanderer interview, Archbishop Raymond Burke zeroed in on Land’O Lakes as a central catalyst of decline in Catholic education. “So much was undone,” he said, “and there’s a mentality [that] entered into the universities by which those people who dedicated their lives to Catholic education believe that they could not be an excellent university and at the same time be faithful to the Church’s teaching and discipline. That is a fundamental error, and it takes a lot to undo it.”
Shaking Down The Thunder
Since announcing Obama’s acceptance, Father Jenkins has been deluged with phone calls, emails, and letters denouncing his decision and requesting that he rescind the invitation. Within days, 150,000 people signed an online petition at notredamescandal.com, and Notre Dame students began planning a series of events addressing Obamas’s policies that have already proven him to be the most pro-death president in U.S. history.
Not that any of this will bother Father Jenkins. Notre Dame’s administration these days is thoroughly intimidated by the increasingly left-wing and non-Catholic faculty, which apparently expects to be running the school within a generation. The reasons are simple. Consider the C.S.C.’s: the Catholic News Service incorrectly reports that Notre Dame is “run by the Congregation of Holy Cross.” Sorry, that ended forty years ago, when federal money required that the Congregation not run the school. Moreover, vocations to the C.S.C.’s are dwindling to the point that, in forty more years, priests on the faculty will be a rare anachronism. But won’t outraged alumni stop donating? No problem! NBC Sports has an exclusive multi-year contract to broadcast Notre Dame’s home football games. University spokesman Dennis Brown cannot reveal the amount the school receives from NBC, but a source in NBC’s New York headquarters says that Notre Dame receives more from NBC than it receives from all alumni giving. And what about that federal money? Mr. Brown tells the Wanderer that, in a typical year, Notre Dame receives about eighty million dollars in federal grants.
In brief, Notre Dame’s institutional priorities have moved since the 1960s from the principles of the faith to money and power. And what has been the engine of that change? Ralph McInerny, who retires this year after teaching philosophy at Notre Dame for fifty-four years, blames it on the university’s “truly vulgar lust to be welcomed into secular society.”
In short, from the point of view of Notre Dame’s first priority since 1967 – money – the Obama invitation is a win-win situation. The uproar delights the faculty: their status rises in the eyes of their secular counterparts who sit on the “peer review” committees that approve federal grants. So does their prestige, since being a Catholic who actually embraces Church teaching is a ticket to nowhere among any university’s faculty nowadays.
The Silver Lining
Two opportunities emerge here. First, in brushing off the avalanche of criticism, Father Jenkins, at the end of some blather celebrating Obama’s appearance, said that “we see his visit as a basis for further positive engagement.” Well, a number Notre Dame students have taken him seriously. Already, several organizations have banded together -- first, to repudiate the invitation, and second, to organize a series of events that will reveal whether Father Jenkins is as good as his word. Does Obama really want engagement? Does he really want to discuss embryonic stem-cell research beyond the blithe pleasantries he offered at his press conference on March 24th? How about the ten billion condoms that the U.S. has sent to poor countries around the world? Would Obama care to compare his views on African AIDS with those of Pope Benedict? And, if the president is “personally opposed” to abortion, will students have a chance to ask him why he is personally opposed? What is it about abortion that is so gruesome that he would personally oppose it, when so many of his ardent supporters are pro-abortion zealots?
The second opportunity lies with the real authority here -- diocesan Bishop John D’Arcy. Canon Law gives the Ordinary, not the university, the right and the duty to bestow and to remove the name “Catholic” from any institution or endeavor in his diocese (C216). There is recent precedent. Last fall, Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde announced “that Notre Dame Academy can no longer identify itself as a Catholic school.” The academy, founded in Middleburg, Virginia by the Sisters of Notre Dame 45 years ago, is now governed by a lay board of trustees who no longer want to uphold the teachings of the Church. Bishop Loverde thus announced that “the school will no longer have the Blessed Sacrament reserved in its chapel and the diocese will not be able to guarantee the quality or authenticity of religious or other instruction.”
Bishop Loverde saves the best ‘til last: “I have strongly suggested to [the Chairman] that the Board of Trustees consider changing the name of the school. The title ‘Notre Dame’ (Our Lady) is so closely associated with our Catholic faith that continued use of the name would undoubtedly be a cause of confusion to potential students and their families.”
Bishop D’Arcy wrote that “President Obama has recently reaffirmed, and has now placed in public policy, his long-stated unwillingness to hold human life as sacred,” the bishop wrote, announcing that he would not attend the ceremony.
But he can do more. Let us pray that Bishop D’Arcy doesn’t someday lament that, when it came to Notre Dame, he was not forceful enough.
Contact Bishop John D’Arcy at P.O. Box 390, Fort Wayne, Indiana 46801.
Write Chris Manion and discuss (or criticize) his Wanderer articles at the Catholic Guys Internet blog (http://thecatholicguys.blogspot.com).
The Wanderer, April 9, 2009
And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. (Luke 1:43-44).
During the recent Octave of the Feast of Annunciation, we contemplated Mary, who “arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste,” to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth. Elizabeth and her unborn child were so thrilled -- they were “filled with the Holy Ghost.” Some of the most beautiful prayers of the Church flow from that joyous visit.
Our Lady visits Elizabeth – and us -- bearing the Word, the Messiah, Truth itself – the fulfillment of God’s promise to His people. In pondering the Second Joyful Mystery, who would not jump for joy like John the Baptist?
Well, apparently not everybody. Today the roles are reversed. Sure, the Notre Dame administration looks with nostalgic fondness to Our Lady, high on the Golden Dome. Mary, the Christ-Bearer, the Truth-Bearer, offers them the joyous promise of salvation in her Divine Son – but at a price. They pause. The price is high: Orthodoxy. Ridicule as a “Catholic backwater.” Permanent minor-league status.
And then, casting their eyes down towards the darkness, Notre Dame senses the awesome, majestic power that flows from the audacious messenger of earth-bound hope and the dynamic of the dialectic. In his presence, the teeming cauldron of unbridled passions is stirred -- honor, power, prestige, envy, superbia vitae. But the Fighting Irish nostrils tremble at the scent: could this secular savior actually reek of the stench of death? Is that aroma the cost of prestige?
Truth versus death. Who could hesitate at that choice? Only the clouded intellect would falter when meeting the ultimate supernatural object of its natural longing. But didn’t Pontius Pilate dither? And there he was, staring Truth in the face.
Not long ago, Notre Dame had to choose between the light and Plato’s cave. After centuries of prayer and sacrifice by generations of Christians who built Christendom and laid the intellectual and spiritual foundations for university life -- after a century of labor and prayer on the part of countless priests, brothers, and sisters of the Holy Cross, Notre Dame chose, a long generation ago, to turn its back on Holy Mother Church, who is inseparable from Christ, who is the Truth. And that choice has had consequences, although some of them took decades to come into view.
In declaring its independence from the Holy Spirit in favor of the Spirit of the Age, what did Notre Dame turn towards? Why, the future! After all, didn’t Harvard, Yale, and Columbia begin as seminaries? And didn’t those institutions eventually choose “excellence,” shedding the shackles of darkness and dogma to embrace the “search for truth,” unencumbered by the nagging nabobs of tradition? For the Apostles of Progress, faith was a ball-and-chain that imprisoned them in the ignorance of the past. In sundering their foul fetters, they leaped away from Christ and towards the future, full of the audacity of hope. In the 1960s, Notre Dame decided it wanted to play in that league, and acted accordingly.
The Two Standards
In the fourth day of his Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius confronts the sinner with the Two Standards – “The one of Christ, our Commander-in-Chief and Lord; the other of Lucifer, mortal enemy of our human nature.” For Ignatius, these are battle standards – because, as Saint Paul makes clear, we are at war: “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Ephesians 11-12).
You’d think that the Fighting Irish would identify with Ignatius’s call to battle. But over forty years ago, they decided to do the impossible: to serve two masters – to wear both uniforms. After all, doesn’t the United States still have a “special relationship” with Great Britain, even though we declared our independence 233 years ago? Why can’t Notre Dame still be “Catholic” without having to be encumbered by the double albatross of Catholic discipline and doctrine?
Well, since I first went there in the 1960s, Notre Dame has certainly prospered, even progressed - in the physical sense, at least. Countless green lawns, fields, and pastures have been replaced with opulent structures, many bearing the names of prominent donors (a couple of them, rest their souls, were friends of mine. Pray for them, please, but do not blame them for believing the priestly palaver. When they went there, clericalism was admittedly prominent, but most of the priests lived up to their side of the bargain: they told -- and taught -- the truth).
I think the reason that the Obama invitation has caused so much turmoil is simply this: the “grace period” that Notre Dame received when it divorced the Church (“but we’re still friends”) is now limping to its natural end. The “decent interval” has turned -- first, indecent; finally, squalid. They cannot resuscitate the cadaver – nor do they want to.
Notre Dame’s lurid infatuation with the secular elites offends Catholic sensibilities of alumni as the wandering eye of the adulterer offends the chaste and faithful spouse. Each furtive flirtation, each pocketing of the wedding ring, is scandalous and boorish. But alea iacta est -- the die is cast. Notre Dame knows full well that Harvard cannot go back to its Puritan past (John Harvard, its founder, was a Puritan Minister), nor can Columbia return to its Episcopalian, or Dartmouth and Yale to their Congregational, roots. In fact, today’s Notre Dame cannot even go back to the control of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Alas, virginity does not grow back. As my father told his Notre Dame Law students, beginning in 1922, “if you take the first bribe, you may as well take the rest.”
Give Us Barabbas!
Juan Donoso Cortés, a nineteenth century Spanish Catholic, writes that “liberalism can survive only in that moment that society decides – Christ, or Barabbas!” As history goes, forty years is the wink of an eye. In embracing with such alacrity the Commanding General of the Culture of Death, has Notre Dame finally declared which side it’s on?
Notre Dame’s president, Father John Jenkins, has gotten tons of mail condemning his decision. The shortest was probably the one from an alumnus faxed sent three words to Jenkins’s office: “Give Us Barabbas!” Jenkins can do better. Al Smith, the Catholic Governor of New York, lost the 1928 presidential election to Herbert Hoover. The Saturday after the election, a priest giving the invocation at a dinner of the Friendly Sons of Saint Patrick joked that, after the election, Smith had sent the shortest telegram in history to Pope Pius XI. It contained one word: “Unpack.”
Frosting on the Cake
Father Jenkins has just announced the appointment of a new dean of Notre Dame’s Law School, Ms. Nell Jessup Newton, whose accomplishments include a maximum donation to the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. The law faculty features a number of superb Catholic scholars, but university Provost Thomas Burish made it clear long ago that he, and not they, would choose the new dean. Burish represents the secular-power faction of the faculty. They will not be happy until Hillary Clinton succeeds Father Jenkins.
[The Wanderer, April 2, 2009, p. 3]