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Monday, November 29, 2004

Coulter Wars

"[Since 9/11] I am often asked if I still think we should invade their
countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity. The answer is:
Now more than ever!" - Ann Coulter

Over three weeks ago, I added Ann Coulter’s famous remark to my e-mail signature file, thereby placing it in front of several hundred people a week. To date, Mrs. Coulter’s remarks has generated three comments, all negative, and all instructive, though in different ways.

The first remark came from an employee of Library Services Centre of Ontario, Canada. Now librarians (especially Canadian librarians) are notoriously "open-minded," loathe to install anti-pornography filters, always complaining about banned books. But this particular librarian found Ann’s remark to be "offensive and grossly out of line." So, she put me on her banned e-mail list. The irony was absolutely delicious.

The remaining two complaints came from subscribers to Through the Father’s Eyes, a free once-a-week e-mail list that provides early Christian commentary on the Sunday Gospel readings. Two men were upset with the quote.

The first asserted: "As a Catholic living in a Muslim Country , I have to say I take offence immediately … you shouldn't go around killing peoples leaders just because you think their religion is wrong. Jesus NEVER intented any of us to do so. Right and left have no bearing in Christianity, Jesus never asked us to kill leaders, let's leave political comments where they should be. Statements like that not only serve in widening the gap between the Muslim world and the west, but also between the Liberal and Conservatives of America (a country already deeply divided). (sic)"

The statements embody a lot of the muddied thinking popular today when it comes to Islam. I will leave the comment on politics to another essay and begin instead by pointing out that no one advocates killing Muslim leaders simply because Muslim faith is erroneous. After all, Hindu, Buddhist, pantheist and most Christian faiths are each wrong to some degree too. Rather, killing Muslim leaders becomes palatable precisely because of how the Muslims are wrong.

Now, it is immediately necessary to make a distinction. What kind of Muslims are we talking about here? There are essentially two kinds: good Muslims who do their best to be orthodox and follow all the precepts of their faith (whether Sunni, Shiite, etc.), and bad Muslims who do not follow all Muslim precepts, but who instead seek some kind of accommodation with the larger world. No one has a quarrel with bad Muslims. It is the good Muslims that pose the problems.

Good Muslims
Like Communism, Catholicism and democracy, good Muslims have a consistent world-view. Like Communists, Catholics and Americans, good Muslims intend their version of the law to be the standard of law throughout the world and they work towards imposing it upon the world.

Unfortunately, sharia, Muslim religious law, is not acceptable to Christian democracy. Sharia allows children to be whipped to death for breaking Ramadan fast, women to be beaten to death by their husbands for the smallest infraction, marriage by the age of six is alright, sex with a child of nine is fine, adoption is illegal, prostitution to service soldiers is legal, polygamy is acceptable, a husband can invoke divorce by simply by repeating the word "divorce" three times. A woman’s testimony in court is not equal to a man’s, she can be stoned to death for being raped, she can be raped in order to punish her relatives for their infractions. Slavery is legal (the very word "Islam" means "submit"), slave armies were and are common under Islam, and male slaves are not uncommonly completely castrated, with every vestige of external genitalia cut away. Women, slave or free, are likewise often subjected to partial or complete removal of external genitalia.

These are just some of the highlights. There are more. Any group who intends to impose that kind of law on the rest of the world has to be stopped.

While it is true that right and left have no bearing on Christianity, right and wrong most certainly do. Jesus did not cry out for the deaths of any religious leaders, but neither did He condemn the crucifixions that occurred regularly under Roman rule. That is, He apparently saw nothing wrong when the state took necessary steps to protect itself from outside attack. Islam is precisely an outside attack on both democracy and Christianity. Unfortunately, this makes good Muslims the threat: criminals who must either be converted from their worldview or be removed.

The Aztecs practiced human sacrifice. The Mormons practiced polygamy. Muslims practice sharia. Contrary to popular opinion, the U.S. Government cannot and does not allow every form of religious expression to exist. Aztec worship has never been practiced here, Mormons had to seriously modify their religious views to survive as a religion, and the Muslim faith cannot be practiced here either.

Now, at this point, one might interpose an objection. On what grounds would we call Osama bin Laden a "good Muslim" who is attempting to follow the precepts of Islam faithfully, while calling others "bad Muslims" or accomodationists? The question is a fair one.

Jesus vs. Mohammed
In Christianity, every Christian believer models his life on Christ. In Islam, every Muslim models his life on Mohammed. On that, all are agreed. Mohammed was the first ruler and interpreter of Islam. He is the one who married a six year old, had sex with her when she was nine, advocated beating wives, allowed his henchmen to beat their own wives to death and rewarded them with more wives after. Subsequently, his role of interpretation and rule over Islam fell to the caliphs. So, just as we must look at historical Christendom to help us understand what Christian Faith teaches, so we must look at historical Islam to determine what Islam is.

The first thirty leaders of Christendom, the popes, were all martyred for the Faith. The first dozen caliphs were all assassinated. Indeed, the word "assassin" was invented by the Muslims. This is informative. Christianity spread through the Roman Empire through proclamation and martyrdom. Islam spread through North Africa and Spain primarily through the sword. While we can point to many historical instances of Christians who committed crimes against both God and man, we can also demonstrate that these crimes were in contravention to Christian teaching. With Islam, the reverse is true.

Indeed, history shows us this much: when Christians disobey Christian teaching, people suffer and die. When Muslims disobey Muslim teaching, people live.

Today, the office of caliph is empty and there is no one to fill it. Thus, anyone who says that Osama bin Laden is not following true Islam is saying this on his own authority, which is to say, on no authority at all. Osama is as authentically Muslim as any number of his predecessors in jihad. Whatever one may wish to say of him, this cannot be denied.

So, the divide between liberal and conservative, between Muslims and the rest of the world, is not a divide that can be bridged. There can be no accommodation between a faith that models itself on adoption and monogamy (Christianity) and a faith that models itself on slavery and polygamy.

The Second Objection
And this is the beginning of the answer to the second man’s objection. When a priest from Uraguay asserted that conversion cannot be forced, that it must be based on love and not war, he was partially correct.
It is true that conversion cannot be forced. Catholic Faith, for instance, has always held a forced baptism to be no baptism at all. However, the proposed dichotomy between love and war is simply false.

"God chastises those whom He loves" says the letter to the Hebrews, and it makes for some interesting conclusions. The Christ who wielded a bullwhip in the Temple, who called Jewish leaders "blind guides," "den of vipers," and "hypocrites," the Christ who said to them, "Who told YOU that you could escape from the coming destruction?" and who predicted the total destruction of both the Temple and Jerusalem, this is not someone who seems averse to war. Indeed, He asserted that He would bring a war like no other, that because of Him father and son would oppose one another, mother and daughter combat one another, He said He came into the world to bring not peace, but the sword.

When Christ whipped those men, He did it because He loved them. One could easily argue that He loved the Jewish leaders more than He did the Jewish population precisely because He chastised them more than anyone else. Similarly, He loved the Jewish population more than the Gentiles because that population was more thoroughly chastised than any Gentile.

When war is waged in order to protect the innocent and turn the wicked from their ways, it is an expression of love. That is why St. Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, could demand a sinner be turned out of the community, turned over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh so that his soul might be saved on the last day. This kind of language is precisely the kind of language the earliest Christians used constantly in explaining the Gospels. They understood that war is necessary because love sometimes requires it.

That understanding has never left Catholic Faith. G. K. Chesterton quotes St. Louis, who followed St. Paul one thousand years later, as saying, "I must either convince the pagan (Muslim) of the rightness of Catholic Faith or thrust my sword through his body as far as it will go." St. Louis was just paraphrasing St. Paul. Ann Coulter simply repeats the wisdom of both. History demonstrates the problem: while Islam and Christendom are both in the world, there will be war.

Friday, November 26, 2004

Economics 101

Killing your customer is generally not good for business. It is amazing how many people don’t understand this.

Take, for instance, the French. The November 24th issue of Medical News Today reports on French abortion advocates who argue that French women encounter many obstacles when seeking an abortion. Abortion units have closed in 40% of private clinics in Paris for financial reasons and the number of doctors willing to do abortions is decreasing. According to certain lights, this is a Bad Thing. What Medical News Today failed to point out was the obvious: France has a total fertility rate of 1.9. Nations require a TFR of 2.1 just to keep from depopulating itself through natural death. It apparently has not occurred to them that this may have some small bearing on the availability of abortion.

It is, perhaps, picayune to point out niggling details, but medical experts agree it is extremely difficult to abort a fetus that has never been conceived. Given that the French are barely conceiving any children at all, it is hardly surprising to discover that the demand for abortion services is not what it once was.

Similarly, leading scientists have, through rigourous double-blind studies, almost conclusively demonstrated that it is impossible to perform an abortion on a woman who doesn’t exist. Put another way, every successful abortion kills a potential client – either a man who might otherwise impregnate a woman or a woman who might otherwise be impregnated. The problem reminds one of the old joke from the popular television show M*A*S*H. When an officer remarked he could do anything in the line of duty, up to and including committing suicide, his opponent replied, "If there were more people like you, there would be less people like you."

Contraception and abortion work with exactly that mindset. If either is widely available, its use is eventually self-limiting. That little boy who was never conceived will likewise never use a condom. That little girl who was never birthed will never grow up to ask for an abortion. Thus, as the abortion clinics decimate their way through the population – not quite a fair word, since clinics kill one in three, not one in ten – they eventually find their client base drops. Now, in order to stay in business, they need to drum up more business. If they are successful in drumming up more business, they will depress their own business even further. The process is simply ravenous.

But it is actually worse than that. Contracepters and abortionists are, in this sense, like a slow-release neutron bomb. They not only destroy their own business, they destroy every business near their own. After all, when someone is contracepted or aborted out of existence, it isn’t just the abortionist who permanently loses a potential customer. Every other business in the country permanently loses that customer as well. Do this often enough and it likely will erode the bottom line.

It is, of course, well-known that Democrats and Republicans hold wildly different positions on this issue. Few people stop to consider why. The contemplation is instructive.

Clearly, capitalists with a long-term view of wealth accumulation like neither contraception nor abortion. Annihilating customers is bad for business. But, from a socialist perspective, there is no particular downside to death. Killing customers cannot hurt the socialist state because the socialist state has no customers. It has only citizens, who each live in order to serve the whole, to serve the state. So, in a state that finds it difficult to feed and clothe people under even the best of conditions, the annihilation of citizens is actually a positive good. The remaining citizens will fare better. Only capitalist societies would be harmed by these practices, since contraception and abortion would reduce the number of workers the capitalists can exploit.

That is why Russia, on November 18, 1920, became the first country to legalize abortion. Lenin saw it as a tool to keep the kulaks down. Japan legalized abortion in 1948 as the Cold War began, while the occupied countries of Eastern Europe did so in the 1950s as the USSR tightened its death grip on those states.

Only with the spreading of socialism and the intensification of the Cold War through the 1960’s and 70’s did Europe and America legalize the practice, and it was largely through an imposition by idealogues. When we look at the major proponents of legal abortion in the United States, we find a roll call of prominent socialists. Betty Friedan joined the Communist party in 1948, Gloria Steinem served as honorary chair of the Democratic Socialists of America, Patricia Ireland’s autobiography, What Women Want, details her support for the Communist party and her participation in Miami’s pro-Communist rallies. Conversely, when we look at the major proponents of capitalism, men like Ronald Reagan, John Wayne and George Bush, we find them all opposed.

When two Muslims killed civilians with a high-powered rifle from the trunk of a car in the Washington D.C. area a few years ago, the nation was aghast. It was clearly seen as a terrorist attack, an attack on our way of life. However, if they had been employed as abortionists, they would have been able to kill a lot more Americans and they would have had an exponentially more negative effect on the American way of life. Best of all, they would have been immune from prosecution, as our courts and media protect their right to kill future producers, consumers and the American economy entire.

It is said that we need to separate Church and state, that arguments based in religion have no basis in American politics. Fine. Let us enter the debate from a purely secular political perspective. Abortion attacks the basis of capitalism, it attempts to impose a socialist world-view upon Americans. It is advocated by the socialists precisely because the socialists understand that big business cannot continue in business if enough of its customers are killed. The socialists may have lost the Cold War, but as the world population inexorably ages, they are clearly winning the Demographic War.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Condi Rice and the Democrats

Selective memories produce odd takes on reality. Consider people like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or Barack Obama, for instance. When we hear from these leaders and leaders like them, we hear them insist that blacks are held down by prejudice. Their evidence? Well, they personally remember prejudice when they were growing up in the 1950’s or 1960’s. And they will go back even farther, pointing to the history of black slavery common in America for the first century of our history. They will even point to the founding of the country, recalling the fact that many of the Founding Fathers, men of the Enlightenment like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, kept slaves.

But, while they remember these things, they fail to remember other things. The Republicans, for instance, were founded in part on the abolition of slavery while the Democrat Party was the party that supported the ‘peculiar institution.’ How many times did we hear about that in the recent campaign? In the last thirty years?
Similarly, consider the Enlightenment slave-owner, Thomas Jefferson, the man who came up with the idea of the separation of Church and State. It is interesting that the slave-holding party cleaves fiercely to this exercise of his rationalism.

What provokes this line of thought is the recent outpouring of silence from black leaders concerning Condoleezza Rice. They are not happy that she succeeds Colin Powell. Why not? Well, that isn’t entirely clear. They insist it isn’t because of her politics. Rather, it is something else, but they can’t agree on what. She is too willing to support Bush policies. She is an Aunt Jemimah, an Oreo. She doesn’t support the real interests and values of the black community, you see.

Interesting charges. But in order to see if this is true, we must first discover what the values of the black community are, right? So, let’s consider the values of the black community.

53% of the black community opposes gay marriage, 60% support school vouchers. 56% of blacks oppose abortion, 20% oppose abortion under any circumstances – a much higher percentage than the white community.

Once we compare the actual values of the black community with the values of black leaders, we see America’s black "leaders" are diametrically opposed to the values of the larger black community. However, these same black leaders do hold values that are in perfect accord with white Democrats.

After all, white Democrats support abortion and gay marriage while opposing school vouchers. Nearly 80% of abortion clinics (almost all run by white Democrats) are located in black communities. Due to the assiduous attention white Democrats give to the black community, blacks account for 36% of all abortions while making up only 14% of the maternal population. Roughly 15 million blacks, two out of every three black babies, have been killed through abortion since 1973.

White Democrats consistently support a style of welfare that destroys the black family while opposing any attempt to restore family integrity. Their recent, rabid support of gay marriage and civil union merely polishes the apple. Likewise, they consistently oppose any attempt to help blacks achieve a decent education through school vouchers. Private schools are fine for the (white) children of party leaders, but definitely not acceptable for the children of the blacks who vote these leaders into power.

Barack Obama, whose father is not an American black, is a perfect example of this discord between black leader and black community. A pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage, anti-voucher Democrat whose own children are sent to private schools, he matches the interests of the white Democrat much more completely than he does the American black community.

The conclusion is obvious: individual black leaders sold out their communities in order to amass personal power. This is the real source of opposition to Condi Rice. White Democrats fear that she's not thrilled about being a water-girl for functionally racist Democrats. Colin Powell, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Barack Obama and the rest are demonstrably fine with the idea. Condi cannot be trusted to "do the right thing. "

Years ago, historians used to talk about "self-hating Jews." Now that the Jewish population has essentially aborted itself out of existence, the focus has moved to "self-hating blacks." Since blacks are aborting themselves out of existence, the label will eventually shift to some other minority that follows white Democrat ideas, as long as that minority exterminates itself so that its putative leadership can maintain a foot in the doors of white Democrat power.

Like American Indians (the vast majority of whom are sterilized), Protestants and Jews, the American black population are being swept away by the demographics. It is a great pity. The black community was once a vibrant contributor to American society. It has squandered its inheritance in a wild attempt to purchase respectability from the white Democrats on Democrat terms.

This is, perhaps, why the Democrats are such fervent supporters of Yassir Arafat and the larger Palestinian leadership community. While very rarely noted in the press, diligent researchers will discover the Palestinians express no particular love for Jews. Indeed, the Palestinian leadership has consistently maintained that Israel and all its Jews must be annihilated. Palestinians are, perhaps, less subtle than the Democrats, but we must focus on the goals here. Democrats recognize a kindred spirit in Arafat and company.
In both cases, it is considered good form for the opposition leadership to sell out their communities in exchange for money and an increase in personal power. But, unlike most of the American black leadership, Israeli politicians seem unwilling to do this. Thus, American Democrats feel towards the Israelis what they feel towards Condi Rice. Any politician that shows any reluctance in exterminating the community he or she represents in exchange for personal perquisites cannot be trusted. The world must be made safe for Democrats.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Let's Talk About Sex

Many Christians have taken offense at Hollywood’s newest movie, Kinsey: Let’s Talk About Sex. It is, they say, yet another sign of West Coast degeneracy, immorality and basic, well… yuckiness. Oddly, few Christians have considered another way to interpret the facts: Christians are the single biggest reason movies like Kinsey get released.

That may seem an odd statement, but it isn’t – it is simply a statement of the facts. In order to see why this is true, we have to remember a few things about both God and man. God didn’t need to create mankind. We are extraneous to God, unnecessary, we are not needed. If we exist at all, it is only because God chose to bring us into existence for our own sake: "The key of love opened the hand of God and creation sprang forth," as Aquinas once said.

What We Need But this also tells us something about mankind. We are not able to exist apart from God. We need Him, we need to know Him, or we are not complete. "Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord," said Augustine, and he was very much understating the case. Because we are made for God, anything less than God in our lives creates a dissonance that is nearly impossible to bear. If you have ever seen an injured or ill person thrash uncontrollably upon his sickbed, you have seen an image of how human persons react to the inability to perceive or understand God’s presence in their lives.

Sexuality lies at the heart of the human person, it is in many ways the defining characteristic of each person, and God intended it to be so. "God created man in His own image, in the image of God he created him, male and female He created them." Mankind is defined first by maleness and femaleness – sexual identity. The first divine command strikes at the heart of sexuality, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it." The first lack in Adam’s life was the lack of Eve. Upon meeting her, the first thing said about the couple was that a man cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh.

Human sexuality permeates the creation accounts. Why? Because God is the source of all life, and we image Him. Our ability to participate in the creation of immortal persons, that is, our ability to pro-create, is the pre-eminent natural way through which we image God. We are like God because He allows us to participate in doing what He does: create immortal persons.

Sex - a misdemeanor: the more you miss, da’ meaner you get Now, for a variety of reasons, very few Christians spend a lot of time meditating on human sexuality. Why that's true is an essay in itself, but we shall leave that aside for the moment and simply concentrate on the result. Because Christians do not think about sex, do not discuss sex, most Christians do not clearly understand the role of human sexuality in God’s plan. But Scripture itself recognizes the centrality of human sexuality to understanding God and His purpose in our lives. This creates an immediate dissonance.

We need to understand human sexuality. We don’t. Thus, secular or Christian, we thrash.

You see, adults need an adult understanding of themselves and of God in order to make it through the day. Secular atheists don’t have it. Unfortunately, too many Christians do not have more than a child’s grasp either, so they aren’t much better off than the atheists.

Now, why is that? Well, children have neither the context nor the capabilities to discuss human sexuality in adult terms. Understandable. Adult terminology and concepts should not be forced upon them. Christians understand this, so they respond by avoiding the topic entirely when educating children in the Faith.

Unfortunately, most children never receive adult instruction in the Faith. As a result, they enter adulthood under the mistaken impression that they are fully prepared to live adult lives when, in fact, they are not. Very few businesses would hire an adult with eighth-grade math skills to be their accountant, yet most adults are perfectly willing to try to live an adult life with eighth-grade Faith skills. Whether we are talking about the national economy or the divine economy, a population with only an eighth-grade level of mastery guarantees nothing but failure.

So Christians, who are supposed to proclaim the Gospel, are not able to do so in an adult way. We can’t address the leading adult concern, we cannot provide sensible adult reasons that explain why we should live out our own sexuality one way as opposed to another.

Don’t Make Them Angry Secular society needs to understand human sexuality. They know in their hearts that Christians should be able to explain it. When we can’t, they get angry with us. Very angry. Again, it is understandable.

Precisely because Christians are inarticulate when it comes to sex, we become extremely dangerous elements in secular society. We are actually stumbling blocks to the proclamation of the Gospel precisely because our incompetence in discussing sex in an adult way makes us the worst possible role models.

In that sense, the Kinsey movie just highlights a pre-existing problem. Look at the five most popular novels in the last five years. What's the big name on the list? Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. Now, Mr. Brown’s historical research was terribly, viciously wrong, but nobody cared. It was making sense of sex. Virtually none of his Christian opponents seem to understand what he did in that book.

All of us attacked Dan Brown for his numerous historical inaccuracies, but those inaccuracies were throw-away lines for him. His lousy history was just the delivery system for an articulate philosophy. Throughout his book, Brown insists on three things: (1) marriage is holy, (2) sex is holy and (3) women are to be treated as images of God. The whole book is spent emphasizing and re-emphasizing those three points.

He mis-represented Christ’s sex life so he could talk about adult sex lives. Like most of secular society, he does not believe Christians have anything useful to say about sex. So, he simply substituted pagan terms for three Christian concepts. He didn't speak of the sacredness of marriage, he used an Egyptian pagan term, Hieros Gamos. He extolled pagan goddess worship (ritualized sex), he insisted Jesus was married all in order to prove sex is holy. Instead of saying women are made in the image and likeness of God, he used pagan terminology: they are goddesses. He insisted that 'Christians think sex is dirty' to justify this paganized wording.

These three facts - holy sex, holy marriage, women are to be treated as holy - made his book tremendously popular because these three facts are true. They are, in fact, the only true things the secular culture has said about sex in the last forty years.

But how many Christians used The Da Vinci Code to talk about sex and Christianity? None of us did. Instead, we spent all our time on debunking Mr. Brown’s atrocious historical research. We attacked his arguments and completely ignored his point, we won the battles and lost the war. We missed the chance to discuss what everyone wants to know: how do I correctly use my sexuality?

Yet Another Chance With the Kinsey movie, God in His goodness has given us another chance. We have the same opportunity here that we had with Dan Brown. It's even the same story line - the secular world omits and distorts the actual history in order to drive a secular philosophical discussion of sexuality. This discussion is framed in an anti-Christian context because, as everyone knows, Christians are immature idiots on sexual matters.

As long as the adult Christian message on sex is not proclaimed, we will keep getting Dan Brown in our bookstores and Alfred Kinsey in our movie theatres. If we don't talk about sex, someone else will. Sex is vitally important to adults. It has got to make sense. The secular culture can't make sense of it - everyone knows that. But the secular culture is going to keep trying, and keep getting it wrong, until they hear a sensible Christian rendition of the message. Christianity has focused for far too long on teaching children. We have lost the ability to talk about adult issues to adults. If we don't regain that ability, we will not break the back of this sex-drenched culture.

So, how do we get that ability? The best way to prepare to discuss sexuality from a Christian perspective is to study what is popularly called the ‘Theology of the Body.’ It is an analysis of Scripture, of Genesis 1 and 2, of the Song of Songs and similar passages, from the perspective of two millenia of Christian experts and mystics, people like Augustine, John Chrysostom, John of the Cross and others. Every Christian who studies Scripture and sexuality in the light of these great teachers, any Christian who begins to understand the basics of the ‘Theology of the Body’ finds their relationship with God transformed. Christians find themselves able to talk about human sexuality in an extraordinarily powerful way, a way that converts the pagan to the Gospel message.

Our culture is awash in sexual imagery and sex as a commodity. This culture abuses who we are as persons. But precisely because sin is so rampant, precisely because the world is so jaded, precisely because the thrashing is so great, the healing balm of grace is even more incredibly powerful. That’s what St. Paul meant when he said, ‘where sin abounds, grace abounds more.’ We have to make people aware of the God’s positive vision of sexuality so that they can implement that divine vision in their own lives. The Da Vinci Code, the Kinsey movie, these are marvelous opportunities for us. We shouldn’t waste them.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Lesson Plans

Political pundits, take note. The USCCB is meeting in just a few days and the participants will have several new items on their agenda. Two items of note include the approval of a first-ever national catechism for adults and the decision to join a new national ecumenical association called Christian Churches Together. When these two items are considered together with another item that does not seem to be on the agenda, we will catch a glimpse of the serious problems the USCCB has. How these items are handled will directly affect American politics.

This news, you see, does not come to us in a vacuum. The Catholic Church in America is a church in schism. As most people know, a few U.S. bishops deny pro-abortion politicians the Eucharist. A larger group warns pro-abortion politicians to avoid approaching the Eucharist. A still larger group sees no problems with giving the Eucharist to politicians who support abortion.

But this should be no surprise. The lay review board, a board which has no standing in canon law, but which is meant to oversee the bishops’ sexual abuse policies, was not only constituted into existence with three pro-abortion members (Leon Panetta, Robert Bennett and Pamela Hayes), but at least one of those members is apparently being retained.

Now, to be fair, the promotion to the panel of pro-abortion figures is not entirely the fault of the bishops. Even a bishop as marvelously staunch a pro-life advocate as Archbishop Burke, formerly of La Crosse, Wisconsin, apparently entertained a pro-abortion lawyer on his staff unawares. This embarrassing revelation became clear only in the last few weeks, as the diocese of La Crosse became one of the few US dioceses that prohibited the Catholic Answers voting guide into its parishes, on the advice of that self-same pro-abortion lawyer. Similarly, over the summer, at least one employee of the USCCB spent his free time running a website that contained explicit support for abortion.

It is a bishop’s prerogative to handle personnel matters as he sees fit. For instance, when Marc Balistrieri, the canon lawyer and Los Angeles chancery official, began his heresy lawsuit against Senator Kerry, Cardinal Mahoney fired him. Similarly, the pro-abortion USCCB official found himself a new job within a few weeks of the revelations about him. And, though Archbishop Burke did not have the opportunity to demonstrate how he would deal with a pro-abortion figure on the La Crosse diocesan staff, it seems unlikely that he would have kept him in employment.

In each of these cases, the bishops in question were initially unaware of their employee’s activities. Once these activities were discovered, the employees were let go. So, we know that canon lawyers have no business exercising their rights as Catholics in Los Angeles, and we also know supporters of abortion at the USCCB eventually find themselves unemployed.

But here is the puzzling thing. Leon Panetta’s pro-abortion record was not exactly hidden under a bushel basket, yet he was appointed and kept on for over a year. Now that Pamela Hayes has revealed her pro-abortion bias, and essentially taunted the Catholic bishops about it, what will the bishops do? Balistrieri got fired because his lawsuit undermined and underlined his bishop’s indifference to pro-abortion politicians. Generally speaking, bishops do not take well to being taunted. Pamela Hayes is the agenda item that is not on the agenda, and the answer to the problem she poses will say quite a bit more than meets the eye.

You see, the USCCB is split between post-Vatican II bishops who are material heretics versus bishops who are still fully orthodox. The heretical bishops are the ones who aren’t particularly interested in promoting priestly vocations. They see the role of the priesthood fading away as the laity take over essentially all leadership roles in the Church. In other words, they see the Catholic Church in America devolving into Protestant anarchy as a positive good, an empowerment long overdue. Further, they agree with the Protestant idea that religion is something private, something apart from politics.

The orthodox bishops, on the other hand, still hew to the hierarchy of the Kingdom, the idea that the King has stewards He ordained. They understand that faith cannot be separated from politics.

The establishment of the lay review board was essentially the triumph of the heretics over the orthodox. The sexual abuse crisis played into the hands of the heretics, "forcing" the fence-sitter bishops into supporting the creation of the lay review board, the triumph of laity over episcopacy. Now, ironically, the heretics had created the sex abuse crisis through their inaction. Because their understanding of both sin and human sexuality is radically impoverished, these bishops have no problem with abortion and were quite willing to allow pro-abortion figures to sit on the self-same lay review board that their own failures had "forced" into existence. Hayes' comments are a stick in the eye of orthodox bishops, and the heretics know it.
But this conference will lay everyone’s cards on the table. The Holy Father has already pointed out that only those Christian communities with valid apostolic succession can properly be called "churches." If the communities do not have valid apostolic succession, they are not churches. They are – at most – ecclesial communities.

Thus the decision on Christian Churches Together is of pivotal importance. If the USCCB chooses to join the group, it will do so at the expense of properly recognizing apostolic succession. That is, it will be a win for the heretics, a win of roughly the same magnitude as the establishment of the pro-abortion lay review board on sexual abuse. Similarly, the content of the adult catechism will be a strong indicator of who has the upper hand – the heterodox or the orthodox.

Political pundits who want to predict how the Catholic vote will break four years from now need to understand the importance of these three issues at the November meeting. If Pamela Hayes is gone from the lay review board in six months, the orthodox bishops are growing stronger. If the American catechism is orthodox, if the USCCB decides not to officially join Christian Churches Together, the orthodox bishops are growing stronger. The more orthodox the bishops, the more energized and the more enlarged the orthodox Catholic base will be.

Now, some might point to the recent book on Catholic political participation in America and conclude that the entire premise of this essay is founded on a canard. After all, it can be shown that Catholic political participation as a whole is essentially indistinguishable from the rest of the general population and always has been.

True. But that is largely because American Catholic bishops have, since the founding of this country, never done their job. Their job is to form adults in the Faith. This has never happened. Instead, American bishops spent the last century attempting to form children and largely ignored the adults. Indeed, the very first catechism Catholics ever saw from American bishops was the Baltimore Catechism, written for children, not adults.

That is precisely why this adult catechism – the first this country has ever seen - is, in many ways, as tremendous an event for American Catholics as the publication of the 1987 Roman Catechism was for the universal Church. As long as the content is not openly heretical, the existence of an adult catechism for Americans is earth-shattering. American bishops are finally figuring out what their job is. Once Catholic adults are consistently formed in the Faith, the Democrat party will either become pro-life, or it will cease to exist. Forming adult Catholics will take more than four years, but political pundits need to understand what is at stake this November. We may soon begin forming the Catholic voting bloc that we have talked about for two centuries.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The New Prohibition

Contrary to predictions I made earlier this year, all eleven states considering a constitutional amendment on gay marriage passed their bans, including Oregon, a state heavily targeted by gay activists. It appears I was wrong on the connection between the contraceptive mentality and the acceptance of homosexual behaviour.

Or was I?

You see, while Americans in general opposed same-sex marriage 61% to 34%, the 18-29 age bracket supported gay marriage or civil unions 56 to 40%.

Why is this important? Two reasons.

College: The Fountain of Knowledge Where Students Go to Drink
First, the 18-29 bracket tends to be the dog that doesn’t bark in the election process. We have thirty years of experience demonstrating that young people tend not to vote. It doesn’t matter how many young people are registered to do so, they simply can’t be bothered, and it’s hard to blame them.

After all, it takes time out of their day and they have no particular stake in the outcome of any election. College students don’t have much in the way of bank accounts nor do they own much private property, so taxes aren’t an enormous concern. They aren’t raising children, so they aren’t concerned about the quality of their neighborhood or the quality of any school, apart from the one they attend. They aren’t being actively drafted and –at least in America - terrorists don’t tend to blow up university libraries or fast food joints, so young people aren’t particularly concerned about international affairs. Whoever is in office today will be up for election again or retired by the time they get settled in their own job and start building their life in such a way that they might be seriously impacted by the political process. They have no compelling reason to vote.
Second, we know that college radicalizes people. 72% of high school students say abortion is morally wrong. Of women who do not go on to college, 37% support abortion. But college changes attitudes. 73% of women with a college education support abortion.

So, the ones who most supported gay marriage were also the ones least likely to vote.

The Factors to Victory
We have won eleven victories (nine in states that voted for George Bush), but how long will it last? Remember Prohibition. It was successfully passed as well, and not just at the state level. It was repealed only when Americans decided the social unrest it caused was not worth the price of having the law.

This is useful to keep in mind. After all, this campaign had a higher level of vituperation and violence than any in recent memory. America is not just at war with terrorism, she is at war with herself.

We could point to several facts and trends in an attempt to divine the future. One fact: that same age cohort, the 18-29 group, is more pro-life than ever. A decade ago, 67% of people aged 18-29 were pro-abortion. Now it’s 54% - still a majority, but also the lowest majority since 1979.

A second fact: This nation will not be majority Protestant at the next election. Mainline Protestant sects are rapidly shrinking while atheism and agnosticism is at historic highs and on the rise. Church attendance has been dropping since 1992 among both men and women and churches are more expensive to operate than ever, while the population of pastors is also aging. This matters deeply. This year, forty-two percent of the population attends church regularly. Sixty-one percent of that population voted for George Bush. Fourteen percent of the population never attends church. Sixty-two percent of that population went for John Kerry.

A third fact: red states tend to grow in population, blue states tend to decline. There are several reasons for this. Blue states tend to support abortion and supporters of legal abortion tend to have smaller families. Red states tend to have more favorable economic conditions, so more people emigrate to them to find jobs and housing.

A fourth fact: The Hispanic population is increasing and may well be the largest minority in America by the next election. Most Latinos want bans on gay marriage and this population is increasingly pro-life. The massive illegal immigration into the country has historically been a Democratic advantage, but the gay marriage issue and other cultural issues could very easily become the fulcrum upon which the Republican party levers that population to their side.

The question teeters on precisely how these competing waves interact, which parts crest during the elections two years, four years, eight years from now. Will rising atheism swamp cultural Christianity? Or will the influx of Hispanics dampen or totally eradicate atheism’s growing popularity? But the best predictor to victory this year was church attendance and Hispanics are less likely to attend church services than either blacks or whites. Can the decline in church attendance be reversed?

The Future
Possibly. The percentage of the population attending church services today is a dramatic decline from 1992, but it matches the percentage that attended during the early 1980s. The 1980’s saw a dramatic increase in church attendance, the 1990’s saw a dramatic decrease.

So, how will it play out? Will those in support of the Democrat agenda of legal homosexual marriage and legal abortion attempt to emulate the Prohibition reversal by attempting to instigate large-scale social upheaval? Those who remember groups like the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers in the 1970’s will also remember that Hillary Clinton and other leaders in today’s Democrat party were instrumental in defending them. Certainly, these leaders will not repeat the mistakes of their youth – they have grown older and wiser. They have also grown more calculating. Colder.

How will the population respond? We clearly no longer live in the America of the 1970’s. The theological anarchism of protestant thought is slowly receding from the scene. Their insistence on conserving a specific culture has saved this day, but how much longer can that grasp be maintained? Protestants passed the Comstock laws outlawing contraception in the 1890’s, but Protestants embraced contraception so fervently in the mid-1900’s that the Comstock laws were overturned by 1973 and abortion legalized. With that break, homosexual rights began to make itself a public force.

We won today, but how long will the victory last? How many churches will still be transmitting the culture in four years? Who will take the place of the Protestant majority?

The fight is not over. It is barely begun.