Fund Your Utopia Without Me.™

16 February 2012

The callous cruelty of the EU is destroying Greece, a once-proud country

Britain should play its part to end this Greek tragedy by standing up for the underdog. 

 

It is scarcely a generation since Greece emerged from a military dictatorship and sinister forces are once again on the rise - The callous cruelty of the EU is destroying a once-proud country
It is scarcely a generation since Greece emerged from a military dictatorship and sinister forces are once again on the rise 
For all of my adult life, support for the European Union has been seen as the mark of a civilised, reasonable and above all compassionate politician. It has guaranteed him or her access to leader columns, TV studios, lavish expense accounts and overseas trips.
The reason for this special treatment is that the British establishment has tended to view the EU as perhaps a little incompetent and corrupt, but certainly benign and generally a force for good in a troubled world. This attitude is becoming harder and harder to sustain, as this partnership of nations is suddenly starting to look very nasty indeed: a brutal oppressor that is scornful of democracy, national identity and the livelihoods of ordinary people.
The turning point may have come this week with the latest intervention by Brussels: bureaucrats are threatening to bankrupt an entire country unless opposition parties promise to support the EU-backed austerity plan.
Let’s put the Greek problem in its proper perspective. Britain’s Great Depression in the Thirties has become part of our national myth. It was the era of soup kitchens, mass unemployment and the Jarrow March, immortalised in George Orwell’s wonderful novels and still remembered in Labour Party rhetoric.
Yet the fall in national output during the Depression – from peak to trough – was never more than 10 per cent. In Greece, gross domestic product is already down about 13 per cent since 2008, and according to experts is likely to fall a further 7 per cent by the end of this year. In other words, by this Christmas, Greece’s depression will have been twice as deep as the infamous economic catastrophe that struck Britain 80 years ago.
Yet all the evidence suggests that the European elite could not give a damn. Earlier this week Olli Rehn, the EU’s top economist, warned of “devastating consequences” if Greece defaults. The context of his comments suggests, however, that he was thinking just as much of the devastating consequences that would flow for the rest of Europe, rather than for the Greeks themselves. 

Another official was quoted in the Financial Times as saying that Germany, Finland and the Netherlands are “losing patience” with Greece, with apparently not even a passing thought for the real victims of this increasingly horrific saga. Though the euro-elite seems not to care, life in Greece, the home of European civilisation, has become unbearable. 

Perhaps 100,000 businesses have folded, and many more are collapsing. Suicides are sharply up, homicides have reportedly doubled, with tens of thousands being made homeless. Life in the rural areas, which are returning to barter, is bearable. In the towns it is harsh and for minorities – above all the Albanians, who have no rights and have long taken the jobs Greeks did not want – it is terrifying. 

This is only the start, however. Matters will get much worse over the coming months, and this social and moral disaster has already started to spread to other southern European countries such as Italy, Portugal and Spain. It is not just families that are suffering – Greek institutions are being torn to shreds. Unlike Britain amid the economic devastation of the Thirties, Greece cannot look back towards centuries of more or less stable parliamentary democracy. It is scarcely a generation since the country emerged from a military dictatorship and, with parts of the country now lawless, sinister forces are once again on the rise. Only last autumn, extremist parties accounted for about 30 per cent of the popular vote. Now the hard Left and hard Right stand at about 50 per cent and surging. It must be said that this disenchantment with democracy has been fanned by the EU’s own meddling, and in particular its imposition of Lucas Papademos as a puppet prime minister.

Late last year I was sharply criticised, and indeed removed from a Newsnight studio by a very chilly producer, after I called Amadeu Altafaj-Tardio, a European Union spokesman, “that idiot from Brussels”. Well-intentioned intermediaries have since gone out of their way to assure me that Mr Altafaj-Tardio is an intelligent and also a charming man. I have no powerful reason to doubt this, and it should furthermore be borne in mind that he is simply the mouthpiece and paid hireling for Mr Rehn, the Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner I mentioned earlier. 

But looking back at that Newsnight appearance, it is clear that my remarks were far too generous, and I would like to explain myself more fully, and with greater force. Idiocy is, of course, an important part of the problem in Brussels, explaining many of the errors of judgment and basic competence over the past few years. But what is more striking by far is the sheer callousness and inhumanity of EU commissioners such as Mr Rehn, as they preside over a Brussels regime that is in the course of destroying what used to be a proud, famous and reasonably well-functioning country.

In these terrible circumstances, how can the British liberal Left, which claims to place such value on compassion and decency, continue to support the EU? I am old enough to recall their rhetoric when Margaret Thatcher was driving through her monetarist policies as a response to the recession of the early Eighties. Many of the attacks were incredibly personal and vicious. The British prime minister (who, of course, was later to warn so presciently against monetary union) was accused of lacking any kind of compassion or humanity. Yet the loss of economic output during the 1979-82 recession was scarcely 6 per cent, less than a third of the scale of the depression now being suffered by the unfortunate Greeks. Unemployment peaked at 10.8 per cent, just over half of where Greece is now.

The reality is that Margaret Thatcher was an infinitely more compassionate and pragmatic figure than Amadeu Altafaj-Tardio’s boss Olli Rehn and his appalling associates. She would never have destroyed an entire nation on the back of an economic dogma.

One of the basic truths of politics is that the Left is far more oblivious to human suffering than the Right. The Left always speaks the language of compassion, but rarely means it. It favours ends over means. The crushing of Greece, and the bankruptcy of her citizens, is of little consequence if it serves the greater good of monetary union.

Nevertheless, for more than a generation, politicians such as Tony Blair, Peter Mandelson, Nick Clegg and David Miliband have used their sympathy for the aims and aspirations of the European Union as a badge of decency. Now it ties them to a bankruptcy machine that is wiping out jobs, wealth and – potentially – democracy itself.

The presence of the Lib Dems, fervent euro supporters, as part of the Coalition, has become a problem. It can no longer be morally right for Britain to support the European single currency, a catastrophic experiment that is inflicting human devastation on such a scale.

Britain has historically stood up for the underdog, but shamefully, George Osborne has steadily lent his support to the eurozone.

Thus far only one British political leader, Ukip’s Nigel Farrage, has had the clarity of purpose to state the obvious – that Greece must be allowed to default and devalue. Leaving all other considerations to one side, humanity alone should press David Cameron into splitting with Brussels and belatedly coming to the rescue of Greece.




14 February 2012

Obama Has Stranded the Catholic Left


“Catholic Left” and “Catholic Right” are inadequate and irksome labels that too often sully all of us with the “ick” of politics even when our churchy disagreements are not rooted in politics at all, but simply upon a difference in vision and emphasis.

So stipulating, and resigned to using more scare quotes than I would like, I am struck by what little assist President Obama gave to his friends on the “Catholic Left” with last Friday’s “accommodation” to their concerns with his HHS mandate. His brief statement was meant to get a hot story off the media front burners (a qualified success) and to telegraph to progressives that he wanted them back in the fold.

To that end, the White House seemed to have conferred not with the concerned Bishops but with members of the “Catholic Left” whose criticism of his original plans had had a weighty effect on others, and whose progressive credentials made their alliance vital to retain; he effectively went to Sr. Carol Keehan, President of the Catholic Health Association, and E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, and sought imprimaturs that were not theirs to give, on what the press has taken to call (in apparent ignorance of the word’s meaning) his “compromise.”

Even before the president spoke, Keehan’s approving statement was released through the White Houses own press portals, with Dionne’s endorsement swiftly following. The one-two punch of Keehan and Dionne was meant to knock out the Bishops before they’d had a chance to find their mouth guards or rise from their corners, and also to signal that it was safe for the “Catholic Left” to regroup behind Obama.

It has not gone precisely as planned. If the matter has successfully been driven from the front pages–and why wouldn’t it be, since the press had initially tried to ignore the story–no one has yet been knocked down by members of the “Catholic Left” racing back into Obama’s corner. Stunned by Obama’s initial plans (which, by the way, were codified last Friday, in their original form, even as Obama was speaking) the “progressives” are paused and perhaps skittish.

Michael Sean Winters admits to registering ambivalence at the White House’s “accommodation” and seeking the input of trusted friends; others have been critical of the bishops but not wholly committed to Obama’s decision, which—it must be said—was neither a compromise nor a negotiated offer; Catholic Charities head Father Larry Snyder has walked back his original statement of support in favor of more cautious words; the ultra liberal retired Cardinal Roger Mahony has reiterated his resistance, calling Obama’s move an “outrage” that “actually makes the entire matter far worse.” Doug Kmiec, who perhaps did more than any Catholic to win over concerned consciences in 2008, has—at this writing—said nothing publicly about the “accommodation.”

Whether the “Catholic Left” can “hope” for more from Obama is questionable, as the White House Chief of Staff said over the weekend that the administration was finished with the issue.

This unwillingness of staunch Obama supporters to quickly embrace his latest idea and perform a full-pivot from the bishops has become for me the most interesting part of the story. As a rule, I think any of these men would be all-too-happy to leave the Bishop’s corners for Obama’s on this particular issue, but–in good conscience–they simply cannot. His stated mandate was so shocking to ideas of justice and constitutionality that whether the president is dealing in good faith has now become an unknowable—why did Obama feel a need to ensnare the churches in an issue that could have been attended to in other ways?

If, upon gauging the dismay of his allies within the church, Obama had truly meant to assuage the consciences of his Catholic allies, he could have done so easily and clearly; instead his words suggested to some that even the narrow conscience clause offered in his first decision was at risk, and his solution looks like a shell game, analogous, as blogger Marc Barnes put it, to trying to force Orthodox Jewish restaurants to sell bacon, but then “accommodating” them by forcing them to “pay a Gentile with a bacon cart to serve pork” for them.

For that matter, if Obama had been genuinely interested in pleasing believers in general and Catholics in particular, he would have conferred with the bishops, and gotten their thoughts on the nuances between direct and indirect co-operation with evil, rather than going around them.

But Obama’s move on Friday wasn’t about nuance; it was about destroying the surprising unity of the “Catholic Right” and the “Catholic Left” on this issue; it was about dividing and conquering. In a deeply cynical move, Obama used Sister Carol Keehan to foment that division; he needed her credibility to reassure the Catholic Left that it could prefer unity with his administration over unity with the church.

His punch was off. Possibly he hadn’t anticipated a block to guard the possession of rights, which are not his to dole out as he sees fit. He seems not to realize, even now–as his administration muddies up the story with talk of costs and savings–that his Catholic allies’ rejection of his HHS Mandate wasn’t about contraception or sterilization, nor could their approval be regained with a skillful uppercut to the men in the miters. What the HHS Mandate has revealed is that the preservation of the freedom of religion–of the churches rights to be who and what they are and to exercise their missions–is worth going to the mat for, no matter which corner you’re coming from.

Elizabeth Scalia is the Managing Editor of the Catholic Portal at Patheos and blogs as The Anchoress. Her previous articles for "On the Square" can be found here.



 Related Reading:

Obama's Waterloo?

Obama Tells America To Fuck Off And Die Already!

The Sandra Sideshow

American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil

The HHS Mandate: Why?

Obama Has Stranded the Catholic Left

Memo to Jews: After They Come for the Catholic Church, They Will Come For Us

On the O'tanic, Forget Lifejackets & Lifeboats, But You Will Receive A Lifetime Supply of Assorted French Tickler Condoms And An IUD That Last For Life --- ALL FREE!!!

Why We Are All Catholics Now

The Perversion of Rights

BBC Chief: Christianity Gets Less Sensitive Treatment Than Other Religions

Celebrate Conformity!

The HHS Mandate: Why?



 
There is no need for Obama's overreach.



By Deroy Murdock


The most baffling thing about Obamacare’s new contraception mandate is why it is necessary at all.

Agree or disagree, one at least could understand if President Obama used Obamacare’s brass knuckles to beat insurance companies into covering some new-but-exorbitant drug that prevented Americans from suddenly succumbing to a rare, highly fatal disease. While there are more attractive alternatives to federal brute force, no one wants to see people drop dead for lack of a pill or powder.

But Obama’s mandate on Catholic institutions and other faith-based organizations involves precisely none of this.

The mandate originally ordered these groups to pay for contraceptives and even abortifacients via their employees’ health-insurance plans. After an enormous controversy erupted, Obama on Friday unveiled an “accommodation” in which he snatched the bill for contraceptives from the Catholic organizations, wrestled insurance companies to the ground, and then stuffed the birth-control bill into their pockets.

“Women will still have access to free preventive care that includes contraception, no matter where they work,” Obama barked. However, “the insurance company — not the hospital, not the charity — will be required to reach out and offer . . . contraceptive care free, without co-pays and without hassles.”

Insurance companies must have been startled to find themselves at the muzzle end of federal police power. They now face a brand-new, unfunded mandate whose costs they surely will pass along to their entire clientele, thus boosting the insurance rates that Obamacare was supposed to reduce.

Utterly perplexing in all of this is why Team Obama ever saw this regulation as necessary.

Is any adult American female unable to secure birth-control pills if she wants them? Is there even one American woman who cannot walk, bike, ride a bus, or ask a loved one or neighbor to drive her to a local drug store to pick up the Pill, contraceptive foam, intra-uterine devices, or other birth-control products?

And if any woman happens to be insured by a Catholic organization or other anti-birth-control group, is it too much to ask her either to find contraceptive coverage elsewhere or go work somewhere that offers such insurance?

Here is another idea: American women who lack birth-control coverage can buy it themselves. BirthControl.com offers one-month supplies of popular pills and patches for roughly $35 to $50. Are American women without contraceptive insurance incapable of salting away $50 per month to enjoy pregnancy-free sex with the men in their lives? Given the joys of sex, is $1.66 per day an unbearable burden requiring massive federal intervention?

“Emergency contraception” pills, such as Plan B and Next Choice run from $35 to $60. This is costlier than cough drops, but hardly a sum that demands Santa Obama’s involvement.

And if even these sums are too high, Planned Parenthood operates about 800 women’s health centers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Its staffers are eager to help women prevent and even terminate pregnancies. Planned Parenthood prices its services on a sliding scale. Low-income women pay less than those with heavier purses. Why must Obama compete with Planned Parenthood?

One of the most pernicious aspects of this “accommodation” is that Obama ordered insurance companies to provide free contraceptives for all fertile women. Not poor women. Not just the 99 percent. But all women.

Why is Obama forcing insurance companies to give complimentary contraceptives to women among the much maligned 1 percent? Are heiresses and female hedge-fund managers suddenly incapable of buying their own IUDs? Shouldn’t insurance companies instead devote their finite resources to pre-natal care for poor pregnant women? Nope. Those dollars now must underwrite free diaphragms for bond traders at Goldman Sachs.

Also, why these Herculean efforts for “women’s health”? Doesn’t it still take two to tango? What about men’s health?

Any American man who studies on a Catholic campus — or works for a Catholic or other faith-based organization that does not cover contraception — is on his own. While Obama rushes to the mattresses to assure that every American female gets the Pill and perhaps even tubal ligation gratis, men are expected to pay for condoms, vasectomies, and the male pill (as soon as it is perfected) out of their own wallets. How sexist.

More than anything else, the issue here is mandates. If Obama gets away with this, why could he not compel, say, Gay Men’s Health Crisis to counsel heterosexual women on achieving or avoiding pregnancy? GMHC might prefer to help gay men address myriad medical matters. Obama, however, simply could reply: “Never mind. I know best. So, hop to it.”

And if Obama is reelected, what would stop him from directing Catholic hospitals to to perform abortions, fund them, or make their insurers do so? While this sounds crazy, it is not a flying leap from Obama’s current order that insurers of Catholic institutions’ employees must finance drugs that abort very young human embryos.

This entire imbroglio encapsulates Obamism: Mandates, higher costs, phony compromises, and pandering to particular constituencies for votes.

This whole affair sickens even a godless, Manhattan-based heathen like me. Obamacare fuels all of this, which is one more argument for its repeal. Step one in repealing Obamacare is to repeal Barack Obama next November 6.

— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.



American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil




Paul A. Rahe · Feb. 10 at 5:21pm

You have to hand it to Barack Obama. He has unmasked in the most thoroughgoing way the despotic propensities of the administrative entitlements state and of the Democratic Party. And now he has done something similar to the hierarchy of the American Catholic Church. At the prospect that institutions associated with the Catholic Church would be required to offer to their employees health insurance covering contraception and abortifacients, the bishops, priests, and nuns scream bloody murder. But they raise no objection at all to the fact that Catholic employers and corporations, large and small, owned wholly or partially by Roman Catholics will be required to do the same. The freedom of the church as an institution to distance itself from that which its doctrines decry as morally wrong is considered sacrosanct. The liberty of its members – not to mention the liberty belonging to the adherents of other Christian sects, to Jews, Muslims, and non-believers – to do the same they are perfectly willing to sacrifice.

This inattention to the liberties of others is doubly scandalous (and I use this poignant term in full knowledge of its meaning within the Catholic tradition) – for there was a time when the Catholic hierarchy knew better. There was a time when Roman Catholicism was the great defender not only of its own liberty but of that of others. There was a time when the prelates recognized that the liberty of the church to govern itself in light of its guiding principles was inseparable from the liberty of other corporate bodies and institutions to do the same.

I do not mean to say that the Roman Catholic Church was in the more distant past a staunch defender of religious liberty. That it was not. Within its sphere, the Church demanded full authority. It is only in recent years that Rome has come to be fully appreciative of the larger principle.

I mean that, in the course of defending its autonomy against the secular power, the Roman Catholic Church asserted the liberty of other corporate bodies and even, in some measure, the liberty of individuals. To see what I have in mind one need only examine Magna Carta, which begins with King John’s pledge that


the English Church shall be free, and shall have her rights entire, and her liberties inviolate; and we will that it be thus observed; which is apparent from this that the freedom of elections, which is reckoned most important and very essential to the English Church, we, of our pure and unconstrained will, did grant, and did by our charter confirm and did obtain the ratification of the same from our lord, Pope Innocent III, before the quarrel arose between us and our barons: and this we will observe, and our will is that it be observed in good faith by our heirs forever.


Only after making this promise, does the King go on to say, “We have also granted to all freemen of our kingdom, for us and our heirs forever, all the underwritten liberties, to be had and held by them and their heirs, of us and our heirs forever.” It is in this context that he affirms that “no scutage nor aid shall be imposed on our kingdom, unless by common counsel of our kingdom, except for ransoming our person, for making our eldest son a knight, and for once marrying our eldest daughter; and for these there shall not be levied more than a reasonable aid.” It is in this context that he pledges that “the city of London shall have all it ancient liberties and free customs, as well by land as by water; furthermore, we decree and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall have all their liberties and free customs.” It is in this document that he promises that “no freemen shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor send upon him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land” and that “to no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.”

One will not find such a document in eastern Christendom or in the sphere where Sunni Islam is prevalent. It is peculiar to Western Christendom – and it was made possible by the fact that, Christian West, church and state were not co-extensive and none of the various secular powers was able to exert its authority over the church. There was within each political community in the Christian West an imperium in imperio – a power independent of the state that had no desire to replace the state but was fiercely resistant to its own subordination and aware that it could not hope to retain its traditional liberties if it did not lend a hand in defending the traditional liberties of others.

I am not arguing that the Church fostered limited government in the Middle Ages and in the early modern period. In principle, the government that it fostered was unlimited in its scope. I am arguing, however, that the Church worked assiduously to hem in the authority of the Christian kings and that its success in this endeavor provided the foundation for the emergence of a parliamentary order. Indeed, I would go further. It was the Church that promoted the principles underpinning the emergence of parliaments. It did so by fostering the species of government that had emerged within the church itself. Given that the Church in the West made clerical celibacy one of its principal practices (whether it was honored in the breach or not), the hereditary principle could play no role in its governance. Inevitably, it resorted to elections. Monks elected abbots, the canons of cathedrals elected bishops, the college of cardinals elected the Pope.

The principle articulated in canon law  — the only law common to all of Western Europe — to explain why these practices were proper was lifted from the Roman law dealing with the governance of waterways: “Quod omnes tangit,” it read, “ab omnibus tractari debeat: That which touches all should be dealt with by all.” In pagan antiquity, this meant that those upstream could not take all of the water and that those downstream had a say in its allocation. It was this principle that the clergymen who served as royal administrators insinuated into the laws of the kingdoms and petty republics of Europe. It was used to justify communal self-government. It was used to justify the calling of parliaments. And it was used to justify the provisions for self-governance contained within the corporate charters issued to cities, boroughs, and, in time, colonies. On the eve of the American Revolution, you will find it cited by John Dickinson in The Letters of a Pennsylvania Farmer.

The quod omnes tangit principle was not the foundation of modern liberty, but it was its antecedent. And had there been no such antecedent, had kings not been hemmed in by the Church and its allies in this fashion, I very much doubt that there ever would have been a regime of limited government. In fact, had there not been a distinction both in theory and in fact between the secular and the spiritual authority, limited government would have been inconceivable.

The Reformation weakened the Church. In Protestant lands, it tended to strengthen the secular power and to promote a monarchical absolutism unknown to the Middle Ages. Lutheranism and Anglicanism were, in effect, Caesaro-Papist. In Catholic lands, it caused the spiritual power to shelter itself behind the secular power and become, in many cases, an appendage of that power. But the Reformation and the religious strife to which it gave rise also posed to the secular power an almost insuperable problem – how to secure peace and domestic tranquility in a world marked by sectarian competition. Limited government – i. e., a government limited in its scope – was the solution ultimately found, and John Locke was its proponent.

In the nascent American republic, this principle was codified in its purest form in the First Amendment to the Constitution. But it had additional ramifications as well – for the government’s scope was limited also in other ways. There were other amendments that made up what we now call the Bill of Rights, and many of the states prefaced their constitutions with bills of rights or added them as appendices. These were all intended to limit the scope of the government. They were all designed to protect the right of individuals to life, liberty, the acquisition and possession of property, and the pursuit of happiness as these individuals understood happiness. Put simply, liberty of conscience was part of a larger package.

This is what the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church forgot. In the 1930s, the majority of the  bishops, priests, and nuns sold their souls to the devil, and they did so with the best of intentions. In their concern for the suffering of those out of work and destitute, they wholeheartedly embraced the New Deal. They gloried in the fact that Franklin Delano Roosevelt made Frances Perkins – a devout Anglo-Catholic laywoman who belonged to the Episcopalian Church but retreated on occasion to a Catholic convent – Secretary of Labor and the first member of her sex to be awarded a cabinet post. And they welcomed Social Security – which was her handiwork. They did not stop to ponder whether public provision in this regard would subvert the moral principle that children are responsible for the well-being of their parents. They did not stop to consider whether this measure would reduce the incentives for procreation and nourish the temptation to think of sexual intercourse as an indoor sport. They did not stop to think.

In the process, the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States – the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity – and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism – the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.

At every turn in American politics since that time, you will find the hierarchy assisting the Democratic Party and promoting the growth of the administrative entitlements state. At no point have its members evidenced any concern for sustaining limited government and protecting the rights of individuals. It did not cross the minds of these prelates that the liberty of conscience which they had grown to cherish is part of a larger package – that the paternalistic state, which recognizes no legitimate limits on its power and scope, that they had embraced would someday turn on the Church and seek to dictate whom it chose to teach its doctrines and how, more generally, it would conduct its affairs.

I would submit that the bishops, nuns, and priests now screaming bloody murder have gotten what they asked for. The weapon that Barack Obama has directed at the Church was fashioned to a considerable degree by Catholic churchmen. They welcomed Obamacare. They encouraged Senators and Congressmen who professed to be Catholics to vote for it.

I do not mean to say that I would prefer that the bishops, nuns, and priests sit down and shut up. Barack Obama has once again done the friends of liberty a favor by forcing the friends of the administrative entitlements state to contemplate what they have wrought. Whether those brought up on the heresy that public provision is akin to charity will prove capable of thinking through what they have done remains unclear. But there is now a chance that this will take place, and there was a time – long ago, to be sure, but for an institution with the longevity possessed by the Catholic Church long ago was just yesterday – when the Church played an honorable role in hemming in the authority of magistrates and in promoting not only its own liberty as an institution but that of others similarly intent on managing their own affairs as individuals and as members of subpolitical communities.

In my lifetime, to my increasing regret, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has lost much of its moral authority. It has done so largely because it has subordinated its teaching of Catholic moral doctrine to its ambitions regarding an expansion of the administrative entitlements state. In 1973, when the Supreme Court made its decision in Roe v. Wade, had the bishops, priests, and nuns screamed bloody murder and declared war, as they have recently done, the decision would have been reversed. Instead, under the leadership of Joseph Bernadin, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago, they asserted that the social teaching of the Church was a “seamless garment,” and they treated abortion as one concern among many. Here is what Cardinal Bernadin said in the Gannon Lecture at Fordham University that he delivered in 1983:


Those who defend the right to life of the weakest among us must be equally visible in support of the quality of life of the powerless among us: the old and the young, the hungry and the homeless, the undocumented immigrant and the unemployed worker.

Consistency means that we cannot have it both ways. We cannot urge a compassionate society and vigorous public policy to protect the rights of the unborn and then argue that compassion and significant public programs on behalf of the needy undermine the moral fiber of the society or are beyond the proper scope of governmental responsibility.


This statement, which came to be taken as authoritative throughout the American Church, proved, as Joseph Sobran observed seven years ago, “to be nothing but a loophole for hypocritical Catholic politicians. If anything,” he added, "it has actually made it easier for them than for non-Catholics to give their effective support to legalized abortion – that is, it has allowed them to be inconsistent and unprincipled about the very issues that Cardinal Bernardin said demand consistency and principle.” In practice, this meant that, insofar as anyone pressed the case against Roe v. Wade, it was the laity.

I was reared a Catholic, wandered out of the Church, and stumbled back in more than thirteen years ago. I have been a regular attendee at mass since that time. I travel a great deal and frequently find myself in a diocese not my own. In these years, I have heard sermons articulating the case against abortion thrice – once in Louisiana at a mass said by the retired Archbishop there; once at the cathedral in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and two weeks ago in our parish in Hillsdale, Michigan. The truth is that the priests in the United States are far more likely to push the “social justice” agenda of the Church from the pulpit than to instruct the faithful in the evils of abortion.

And there is more. I have not once in those years heard the argument against contraception articulated from the pulpit, and I have not once heard the argument for chastity articulated. In the face of the sexual revolution, the bishops priests, and nuns of the American Church have by and large fallen silent. In effect, they have abandoned the moral teaching of the Roman Catholic Church in order to articulate a defense of the administrative entitlements state and its progressive expansion.

There is another dimension to the failure of the American Church in the face of the sexual revolution. As, by now, everyone knows, in the 1980s, when Cardinal Bernadin was the chief leader of the American Church and the man most closely consulted when the Vatican selected its bishops, it became evident to the American prelates that they had a problem – that, in many a diocese, there were priests of a homoerotic orientation who were sexual predators – pederasts inclined to take advantage of young boys. They could have faced up to the problem at that time; they could have turned in the malefactors to the secular authorities; they could have prevented their further contact with the young. Instead, almost certainly at the instigation of Cardinal Bernadin, they opted for another policy. They hushed everything up, sent the priests off for psychological counseling, and reassigned them to other parishes or even dioceses – where they continued to prey on young boys. In the same period, a number of the seminaries in which young men were trained for the priesthood became, in effect, brothels – and nothing was done about any of this until the newspapers broke the story and the lawsuits began.

There is, I would suggest, a connection between the heretical doctrine propagated by Cardinal Bernadin in the Gannon Lecture and the difficulties that the American Church now faces. Those who seek to create heaven on earth and who, to this end, subvert the liberty of others and embrace the administrative entitlements state will sooner or later become its victims.

Earlier today, Barack Obama offered the hierarchy “a compromise.” Under its terms, insurance companies offering healthcare coverage will be required to provide contraception and abortifacients, but this will not be mentioned in the contracts signed by those who run Catholic institutions. This “compromise” is, of course, a farce. It embodies a distinction where there is, in fact, no difference. It is a snare and a delusion, and I am confident that the Catholic Left, which is still dominant within the Church, will embrace it – for it would allow the bishops, priests, and nuns to save face while, in fact, paying for the contraception and abortifacients that the insurance companies will be required to provide. As if on cue, Sister Carol Keehan, a prominent Obamacare supporter who heads the Catholic Health Association, immediately issued a statement in which she announced that she is “pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished.”

Perhaps, however, Barack Obama has shaken some members of the hierarchy from their dogmatic slumber. Perhaps, a few of them – or among younger priests some of their likely successors – have begun to recognize the logic inherent in the development of the administrative entitlements state. The proponents of Obamacare, with some consistency, pointed to Canada and to France as models. As anyone who has attended mass in Montreal or Paris can testify, the Church in both of these places is filled with empty pews. There is, in fact, not a single country in the social democratic sphere where either the Catholic Church or a Protestant Church is anything but moribund. This is by no means fortuitous. When entitlements stand in for charity and the Social Gospel is preached in place of the Word of God, heaven on earth becomes the end, and Christianity goes by the boards.

It took a terrible scandal and a host of lawsuits to get the American Church to rid itself of the pederast priests and clean up its seminaries. Perhaps the tyrannical ambitions of Barack Obama will occasion a rethinking of the social-justice agenda. The ball is now in the court of Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York, who has welcomed the President's gesture without indicating whether it is adequate. Upon reflection, he can accept the fig leaf that President Obama has offered him. Or he can put Sister Keehan and her supporters in their place and fight. If he wants to regain an iota of the moral authority that the Church possessed before 1973, he will do the latter. The hour is late. Next time, the masters of the administrative entitlements state won’t even bother to offer the hierarchy a fig leaf. They know servility when they see it.

UPDATE: Friday night, shortly after I posted this piece, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a carefully worded statement critical of the fig leaf President Obama offered them. In the meantime, the Rev. John Jenkins, President of the University of Notre Dame, applauded "the willingness of the administration to work with religious organizations to find a solution acceptable to all parties."