Core: noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the Latin cor, meaning heart.

The View from the Core by E. L. Core
America's Small Town Webzine

 Volume 1.6  Front Page March 18, 2002 


The View’s Featured Webpages
(links to offsite pages)

Columns, essays, and news articles

The Suicide of the Palestinians (David Gelernter) new
“We ought to face squarely the origins of the Palestinian descent into barbarism. In July 2000, Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak made a peace offer that stunned Israel and the world: Israel would re-divide Jerusalem — would turn over large pieces of its ancient capital to the same people who had destroyed its synagogues, desecrated its cemeteries, and banned Jews from entering when they last ran the show. Arafat rejected the offer. Then in September 2000 the new wave of murderous violence began, supposedly triggered by Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount.... Everyone knows about Munich, September 1938: Britain and France generously donate a big slice of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, in exchange for ‘peace with honor,’ ‘peace in our time,’ and the Brooklyn Bridge. Many people know about the Kristallnacht pogrom, November 1938: Germany’s approach to the Jews turns from mere oppression to bloodthirsty violence. Kristallnacht was ‘triggered’ by the murder of a German diplomat by a deranged Jew. But some (not all) historians point out the obvious: A leading cause of Kristallnacht was Munich itself. Hitler read the Munich agreements as a proclamation by England and France stating: ‘We are weak; you have nothing to fear; do what you like.’ The analogy is not close, just close enough. Israel is no Czechoslovakia and was not sold down the river. Barak made his offer freely and in good faith. But to a significant number of Palestinians, the offer obviously said: ‘We are weak; you have nothing to fear; attack.’ Appeasement doesn’t merely fail to prevent catastrophe, it provokes catastrophe.”

A Peace of My Mind (Dave Shiflett) new
“Have you slapped a pacifist today? If not, get to it. It’s one thing to protest a war undertaken in some remote jungle you have to take a long flight to, and whose purposes may be a bit gauzy. It’s quite another when the enemy is dive-bombing New York and Washington. The fact that our enemies are determined to return the world to the seventh century and force our women to dress in sacks makes the anti-war position all the more controversial. There seems little choice but to douse these people with the hot oil of ridicule. At the outset, it should be pointed out that these contemporary pacifists are not cut from the same cloth as history’s grand Mahatmas, whose neutrality may have sometimes been in error but who were people of large and often courageous spirit.... Not so the new breed, which appears to be largely made up of self-absorbed snots. When the heat shows up, they run. If they get jugged, they get someone to post bail, preferably on Daddy’s AmEx card. Some do a bit of car-burning and looting on the side. They blossom most brilliantly in the spotlight, which they are forever seeking, and they hail from the expected provinces: Hollywood, the Ivy League, the Ivory Tower, Trust Fund City. Many hold dual citizenship.”

Study: Death penalty deters scores of killings (Paul Rubin) new
“Executions are always controversial, and there are always debates about whether states should use the death penalty. But this debate cannot proceed rationally unless we fully understand the advantages and disadvantages of execution.... One conservative version of our model finds that each execution deters an average of 18 homicides, with a range of between 8 and 28 murders deterred by each execution. Other variants find even larger numbers of prevented murders.... We as a society might decide that we want to eliminate capital punishment. But this should be an informed decision, and should consider both the costs and benefits of executions. Our evidence is that there are substantial benefits from executions and, thus, substantial costs of changing this policy.”

Minoritarianism: A dangerous obsession (John Derbyshire) new
“In a civilized liberal democracy, majorities owe certain things to harmless minorities: tolerance, civility, and the rights granted in the Constitution — freedom of speech, assembly, etc. However, it seems to me that minorities owe something to the majority in return: mainly, a proper respect for their tastes, beliefs, and sensibilities, and a decent restraint in challenging them, if there are some reasonable grounds for challenging them. This contract imposes some costs on minorities, of course, but I think they should look on those costs as the price of the tolerance they enjoy. Is that patronizing? Well, then add ‘being patronized’ to the list of costs — none of which, in any case I can think of in American society today, is much more arduous or oppressive than that. There are, after all, reciprocal costs on the majority when they make those accommodations.... I don’t see any danger at all that majorities will ride roughshod over minorities unless restrained by wise, omniscient elites. I do, though, see the opposite danger: That by allowing themselves to be browbeaten by those elites into yielding on every single point of accommodation demanded by every loud minority, the majority will find at last that they have no institutions, no traditions, no moral landmarks, no common understandings left, and will be adrift in a wasteland of moral relativism, naked to the cold, heartless winds of intellectual fashion.”

Can There Be a Decent Left? (Michael Walzer) new
“A few left academics have tried to figure out how many civilians actually died in Afghanistan, aiming at as high a figure as possible, on the assumption, apparently, that if the number is greater than the number of people killed in the Towers, the war is unjust. At the moment, most of the numbers are propaganda; there is no reliable accounting. But the claim that the numbers matter in just this way, that the 3120th death determines the injustice of the war, is in any case wrong. It denies one of the most basic and best understood moral distinctions: between premeditated murder and unintended killing. And the denial isn’t accidental, as if the people making it just forgot about, or didn’t know about, the everyday moral world. The denial is willful: unintended killing by Americans in Afghanistan counts as murder. This can’t be true anywhere else, for anybody else.”

The man who knows too much (Jonathan Tobin) new
“CNN reporter Steve Emerson was stuck in Oklahoma City on Christmas 1992 with nothing to do and wandered by the city’s Convention Center, where a gathering of the Muslim Arab Youth Association was taking place. Inside, he found ‘books preaching Islamic Jihad, books calling for the extermination of Jews and Christians, even coloring books instructing children on subjects, such as How to Kill the Infidel.’ Later, after listening to speeches urging jihad against the Jews and the West from luminaries such as the head of the Hamas terrorist group, Emerson called his contacts in the FBI to inquire whether they were aware of this bizarre meeting in the American heartland. They were not. A year later, Emerson attended a similar Muslim conference in Detroit that included representatives from Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other terror groups. It also included an appearance from a befuddled senior FBI agent. When a member of the hostile audience asked the agent for advice on how to ship weapons overseas, Emerson relates that the G-man said, matter-of-factly, that he ‘hoped any such efforts would be done in conformance with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms guidelines.’ Apparently, the FBI official had attended the radical conference under the mistaken impression that it was ‘some kind of Rotary Club.’”

The Core of Muslim Rage (Thomas Friedman) new
“It has to do with the contrast between Islam’s self-perception as the most ideal and complete expression of the three great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — and the conditions of poverty, repression and underdevelopment in which most Muslims live today. As a U.S. diplomat in the Middle East said to me, Israel — not Iraq, not India — is ‘a constant reminder to Muslims of their own powerlessness.’ How could a tiny Jewish state amass so much military and economic power if the Islamic way of life — not Christianity or Judaism — is God’s most ideal religious path? When Hindus kill Muslims it’s not a story, because there are a billion Hindus and they aren’t part of the Muslim narrative. When Saddam murders his own people it’s not a story, because it’s in the Arab-Muslim family. But when a small band of Israeli Jews kills Muslims it sparks rage — a rage that must come from Muslims having to confront the gap between their self-perception as Muslims and the reality of the Muslim world.”

From our friends (?) the Saudis:

Special Dispatch No. 354: Saudi Government Daily: Jews Use Teenagers’ Blood for “Purim” Pastries (MEMRI) new
“In an article published by the Saudi government daily Al-Riyadh, columnist Dr. Umayma Ahmad Al-Jalahma of King Faysal University in Al-Dammam, wrote on ‘The Jewish Holiday of Purim.’ Following are excerpts of the article:
‘This holiday has some dangerous customs that will, no doubt, horrify you, and I apologize if any reader is harmed because of this.... For this holiday, the Jewish people must obtain human blood so that their clerics can prepare the holiday pastries. In other words, the practice cannot be carried out as required if human blood is not spilled!!.... For this holiday, the victim must be a mature adolescent who is, of course, a non-Jew — that is, a Christian or a Muslim. His blood is taken and dried into granules. The cleric blends these granules into the pastry dough; they can also be saved for the next holiday. In contrast, for the Passover slaughtering, about which I intend to write one of these days, the blood of Christian and Muslim children under the age of 10 must be used, and the cleric can mix the blood [into the dough] before or after dehydration....’”

The Crescent and the Gun (Brian Saint-Paul) new
“The problem, then, is not in the Koran itself but in those who are free to twist it. Because there’s no one to interpret the book authoritatively, it’s vulnerable to any charismatic leader willing to abuse it to justify his personal hatred. The sad result is clear for all to see: The Koran’s command not to harm civilians is ignored; its prohibition against suicide is interpreted away by suicide bombers; its call for freedom in worship is cast aside in many Islamic states; its order to stand up for the oppressed is ignored by those too afraid to speak out against the persecution of non-Muslims. Islam has the Koran, but the Koran has no interpreter. An analogous situation is in Protestant Christianity, where the inheritors of the Reformation gather around the call of sola scriptura (Scripture alone). Different Protestant denominations read the Bible in different ways, with no single, authoritative interpreter. Why then don’t we see fringe Protestants strapping bombs around their waists and walking into crowded malls? The answer brings us back to the different concepts of justice. In Islam, following the Old Testament model, the attacker can be justly destroyed. In Christianity, following the just-war theory, the attacker must be repelled — but only in proportion to the attack. Ultimately, the violence perpetrated by Muslim fringe groups has two roots: first, the Koran’s command to fight the oppressor, and second, the lack of a single voice to identify who that oppressor is. Without that authority, any group — any people, any nation — can be considered an oppressor by those who feel they’ve been wronged. The result, too often, is bloodshed.”

Spying: The American Way of Life? (Wired News) new
“In the six months since the Sept. 11 attacks, Americans may not have exactly embraced a surveillance society, but they appear to have grown to accept portions of it. A Zogby poll conducted last December says that 80 percent of respondents favored video monitoring on public places such as street corners. Especially in the dark days after the Pentagon was hit, the White House targeted, the Capitol anthraxed, and the World Trade Center leveled, that public reaction was predictable. In national emergencies, the uneasy relationship between freedom and order edges toward greater restrictions on individual liberty. But Bush’s war on terror is not a traditional military conflict with a clear end that can be met after, say, U.S. soldiers capture a city, eliminate a Taliban command post — or even snare Osama bin Laden himself. Bush and other top administration officials repeatedly have warned that the attempt to exterminate al-Qaida dens may continue for years, even decades. It conceivably could succeed the Cold War as the most important political struggle of the 21st century. If that happens, new surveillance powers that police receive today likely will become permanent.”

Profs Do Better on Shorter Leash, Study Concludes (NewsMax) new
“Tenured college professors might be bad teachers and even worse scholars, but their institutions and peers have little ability to influence their conduct, according to a recent study by The Fraser Institute, a libertarian think tank in Vancouver, British Columbia. To improve the quality of their teaching, professors need incentives, something radically nonexistent in the individualistic culture of the North American university, write Rodney Clifton and Hymie Rubenstein in ‘Collegial Models for Enhancing the Performance of University Professors.’ Often when professors receive tenure they neglect their students and focus on research or outside assignments like consulting businesses, Clifton and Rubenstein write. The sheer number of extraneous commitments may cause professors to view students as nuisances rather than the paying consumers they are, according to the authors.”

Whooping It Up: In Beirut, even Christians celebrated the atrocity (Italian journalist Elisabetta Burba)
“Where were you on Sept. 11, when terrorists changed the world? I was at the National Museum here [in Beirut], enjoying the wonders of the ancient Phoenicians with my husband. This tour of past splendor only magnified the shock I received later when I heard the news and saw the reactions all around me. Walking downtown, I realized that the offspring of this great civilization were celebrating a terrorist outrage. And I am not talking about destitute people. Those who were cheering belonged to the elite of the Paris of Middle East: professionals wearing double-breasted suits, charming blond ladies, pretty teenagers in tailored jeans. Trying to find our bearings, my husband and I went into an American-style cafe in the Hamra district, near Rue Verdun, rated as one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world. Here the cognitive dissonance was immediate, and direct. The cafe’s sophisticated clientele was celebrating, laughing, cheering and making jokes, as waiters served hamburgers and Diet Pepsi. Nobody looked shocked, or moved. They were excited, very excited.... Back in Italy, I received a phone call from my friend Gilberto Bazoli, a journalist in Cremona. He told me he witnessed the same reactions among Muslims in the local mosque of that small Lombard city. ‘They were all on Osama bin Laden’s side,’ he said. ‘One of them told me that they were not even worthy to kiss his toes.’”

Anti-Americanism blamed on college teachers (WT)
“Professors and administrators are to blame for anti-American sentiment on college campuses today, according to a report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. More than 140 college campuses in 36 states have held anti-war rallies denouncing the country’s military actions in Afghanistan, the report says. The document — ‘Defending Civilization: How Our Universities Are Failing America and What Can Be Done About It’ — concludes that many professors and administrators are quick to clamp down on acts of patriotism, such as flying the American flag, and look down on students who question professors’ ‘politically correct’ ideas in class.”

In war, grownups can’t play silly games (Mark Steyn)
“But the six-month suspension of normal politics is taking its toll on Democrats. ‘We seem to be good at developing entrance strategies,’ Sen. Robert C. Byrd, West Virginia’s porkmeister par excellence, whined the other day, ‘and not so good at developing exit strategies.’ Well spotted, senator. Here’s something else that will shock you: Churchill didn’t have an ‘exit strategy’ for World War II.... You don’t have exit strategies when your national territory’s been attacked; you have a responsibility to see the war through to the end.... The headline on Jules Witcover’s column in the Baltimore Sun read, ‘Democrats Ask Tough Questions On War.’ In fact, tough questions would be welcome. But Byrd’s and Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle’s criticisms are pathetic: They’re about spin, posturing, about how it’ll play on TV. In war, grownups don’t have time for silly games in the congressional schoolyard.”

Being reasonable about faith when we all ignore God (Hanna Clark)
“This fact versus faith dichotomy relies on a gendered and racialized conception of the human mind and soul (or are they even separate?). White people are seen as rational and logical, living in the world of logic and ideas. People of color are seen as more spiritual, irrational and emotional. The same can be said of men (they’re rational) and women (they’re irrational). And the same can be said of Macalester atheists (rational) and the rest of us (irrational). The problem is that Atheism is just as based on faith as any other religion. At Macalester, religion is often seen only as an institution that tries to exert control. There’s a knee-jerk reaction to the imposition of rules and social mores, and all religion and spirituality is thereby ridiculed. It’s ironic that so many people use a patriarchal and racist ideology to critique what they think is an engine of oppressive authority.”

The Pristine Myth (Katie Bacon interviews Charles Mann)
“For years the standard view of North America before Columbus’s arrival was as a vast, grassy expanse teeming with game and all but empty of people. Those who did live here were nomads who left few marks on the land. South America, too, or at least the Amazon rain forest, was thought of as almost an untouched Eden, now suffering from modern depredations. But a growing number of anthropologists and archaeologists now believe that this picture is almost completely false. According to this school of thought, the Western Hemisphere before Columbus’s arrival was well-populated and dotted with impressive cities and towns — one scholar estimated that it held ninety to 112 million people, more than lived in Europe at the time — and Indians had transformed vast swaths of landscape to meet their agricultural needs. They used fire to create the Midwestern prairie, perfect for herds of buffalo. They also cultivated at least part of the rain forest, living on crops of fruits and nuts.”

Diagnosis: Delusional (Drs. Michael A. Glueck & Robert J. Cihak)
“People need to feel right about themselves. Not just good — right. Morally right. For some people, hating America provides an inexhaustible source of unearned moral stature. They can’t be right unless their country is wrong, always and forever wrong: an attitude empowered by the quaint notion that dissent is somehow automatically morally superior to consent, and refusal to participate a greater good than support. Sadly, there is much in this country to criticize. We’re far from perfect, and in many ways the intensity of our self-scrutiny stands as a badge of our virtue. But there comes a time when some overweening emergency takes precedence.”

Correctness Crack-Up (Stephen Goode and Christopher Jolma)
“But the response to Sept. 11 at U.S. colleges and universities might be bringing about a bigger, more profound transformation that’s now in its earliest stages. It’s change that challenges and may undermine — the gospel of political correctness, which has ravaged U.S. schools for nearly two decades. It’s a transformation, too, that may bring an end to the power held at American universities and colleges by the left-wing 1960s activists — many of whom long have held senior and tenured positions at American schools and have used those positions to preach the same tired left-wing politics and anti-Americanism they began so loudly advocating 40 years ago.”

Campus Capers (David Horowitz)
“In any case, the media blackout of my book makes my current campus speaking tour something of a necessity. I have one additional agenda, moreover, which is to cast a spotlight on the rampant political bias in the hiring of faculty at American universities. This repression of conservative viewpoints — an academic McCarthyism that puts McCarthy’s puny efforts to shame — is blatant, unconstitutional and illegal, but ubiquitous nonetheless.

What will it take to persuade? (Balint Vazsonyi)
“The brutal murder of journalist Daniel Pearl has shaken even our own television news analysts. That is significant, since some of our most highly visible — and highly paid — commentators had never known a foreign terrorist they didn’t like. Well, that might be a bit harsh. Let us say instead, they had never seen a foreign terrorist whose ‘cause’ they didn’t respect. But this was too much, even for them. Are we mad enough yet?”

How The Left Undermined America’s Security (David Horowitz)
“Underlying the Clinton security failure was the fact that the Administration was made up of people who for twenty-five years had discounted or minimized the totalitarian threat, opposed America’s armed presence abroad, and consistently resisted the deployment of America’s military forces to halt Communist expansion. National Security Advisor Sandy Berger was himself a veteran of the Sixties ‘anti-war’ movement, which abetted the Communist victories in Vietnam and Cambodia, and created the ‘Vietnam War syndrome’ that made it so difficult afterwards for American presidents to deploy the nation’s military forces.”

The cost of academic integrity (Walter Williams)
“College budgets depend on admitting warm bodies. That means we can’t expect college administrators to do anything to stop unprepared students from being admitted, courses dumbed-down and fraudulent grades given. Boards of Trustees tend to be yes-men and women for the president, so we can’t expect anything from them.
The money spigot needs to be turned off. Alumni, foundations and other charitable donors — not to mention taxpayers — should be made aware of fraudulent practices and academic dishonesty.

The Plains vs. The Atlantic: Is Middle America a backwater, or a reservoir? (Blake Hurst)
“The combination of progressive taxation and urban real-estate prices ensures that almost nobody on the coasts has more spendable income than the highest paid people in Franklin County or the rest of rural Red America. People here in Missouri’s small towns can buy a beautiful older home for less than $100,000. Brooks makes much of the fact that he literally could not spend more than $20 for a meal in Franklin County. The fare in Red America is a bit limited. You can’t buy one of those meals with a dime-sized entrée in the middle of a huge plate, with some sort of sauce artfully squirted about. But you can buy a pound of prime rib for ten bucks. Class-consciousness isn’t a problem in Red America, because most people can afford to buy everything that’s for sale.”

Proof that the classics speak to everyone (Katherine Kersten)
“For 35 years now, we’ve been hearing that ‘the classics’ — the great books of the Western world — are largely irrelevant in today’s classrooms. Why? Most were written by dead white males. Obviously, then, they can hold little meaning for females or for black or Hispanic kids. Everyone knows that if young people are to be moved or inspired, they need books whose authors ‘look like them.’ Try telling that to the students at Wilbur Wright College, a two-year community college in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago. Students at Wright are predominantly black, Hispanic or from immigrant families. Wright is for kids who aren’t ready for four-year colleges. Yet students there are flocking to a Great Books program and lining up to read authors like Plato, Cicero and Dante.”

Why the Muslims Misjudged Us (Victor Hanson)
“Two striking themes — one overt, one implied — characterize most Arab invective: first, there is some sort of equivalence — political, cultural, and military — between the West and the Muslim world; and second, America has been exceptionally unkind toward the Middle East. Both premises are false and reveal that the temple of anti-Americanism is supported by pillars of utter ignorance.”

Parsing out grammar (Linda Chavez)
“I learned how to diagram sentences in elementary school — or what we used to call, appropriately, grammar school.... Progressive teachers and their professional associations, especially the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), believe diagramming sentences is make-work that bores students and turns them off to writing. So they banished diagramming from the classroom years ago, along with most grammar instruction. ”

Slouching Toward Bias: A Neo-Conservative Critiques the Media (Poynter)
“‘The media, notably certain powerful big city dailies and the network news divisions that generally follow their lead, reflect a worldview that is not only distinctly liberal in character, but hostile to those who hold alternative views.”

The Education of Abraham Lincoln (Eric Foner)
“He read incessantly, beginning as a youth with the Bible and Shakespeare. During his single term in the House of Representatives, his colleagues considered it humorous that Lincoln spent his spare time poring over books in the Library of Congress. The result of this ‘stunning work of self-education’ was the ‘intellectual power’ revealed in Lincoln’s writings and speeches.”

Lost Boys (Amy Benfer)
“Suddenly, the debate among researchers is focused on the boys: Are they behind because of the girl empowerment movement? Are they being shortchanged in the classroom simply because they are boys?”

Skewed News: Fair and balanced coverage requires diversity of opinion (Cathy Young)
“Neither Goldberg nor McGowan allege a deliberate vast left-wing conspiracy to distort the news. Rather, they convincingly argue that news coverage is often influenced by a knee-jerk bias stemming from the journalists’ own views on political and social issues.”

Why We Don’t Marry (James Q. Wilson)
“Marriage was once a sacrament, then it became a contract, and now it is an arrangement. Once religion provided the sacrament, then the law enforced the contract, and now personal preferences define the arrangement.”

Occasionally, some links are moved from this section into the Featured Webpages Archive.

Classic articles (that are, or should be, famous)

There is No Time, There Will Be Time
(Peggy Noonan)
Forbes ASAP (November 18, 1998)

“When you consider who is gifted and crazed with rage... when you think of the terrorist places and the terrorist countries... who do they hate most? The Great Satan, the United States. What is its most important place? Some would say Washington. I would say the great city of the United States is the great city of the world, the dense 10-mile-long island called Manhattan, where the economic and media power of the nation resides, the city that is the psychological center of our modernity, our hedonism, our creativity, our hard-shouldered hipness, our unthinking arrogance.”

Networks Need a Reality Check: A firsthand account of liberal bias at CBS News
(Bernard Goldberg)
Wall Street Journal (February 13, 1996)

“There are lots of reasons fewer people are watching network news, and one of them, I’m more convinced than ever, is that our viewers simply don’t trust us. And for good reason. The old argument that the networks and other ‘media elites’ have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it’s hardly worth discussing anymore. No, we don’t sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we’re going to slant the news. We don’t have to. It comes naturally to most reporters.”

A brilliant parody:

Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity
(Alan Sokal)
Social Text (Spring/Summer 1996)

“There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who continue to reject the notion that the disciplines concerned with social and cultural criticism can have anything to contribute, except perhaps peripherally, to their research. Still less are they receptive to the idea that the very foundations of their worldview must be revised or rebuilt in the light of such criticism. Rather, they cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in ‘eternal’ physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the ‘objective’ procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.”

... and, in explanation, ...

A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies
(Alan Sokal)
Lingua Franca (May/June 1996)

“For some years I’ve been troubled by an apparent decline in the standards of rigor in certain precincts of the academic humanities. But I’m a mere physicist: If I find myself unable to make heads or tails of jouissance and differance, perhaps that just reflects my own inadequacy. So, to test the prevailing intellectual standards, I decided to try a modest (though admittedly uncontrolled) experiment: Would a leading North American journal of cultural studies — whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross — publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.... What’s going on here? Could the editors really not have realized that my article was written as a parody?”

The Doomslayer
(Ed Regis)
Wired
(February 1997)

“The world is getting progressively poorer, and it’s all because of population, or more precisely, overpopulation. There’s a finite store of resources on our pale blue dot, spaceship Earth, our small and fragile tiny planet, and we’re fast approaching its ultimate carrying capacity. The limits to growth are finally upon us, and we’re living on borrowed time. The laws of population growth are inexorable. Unless we act decisively, the final result is written in stone: mass poverty, famine, starvation, and death. Time is short, and we have to act now. That’s the standard and canonical litany.... There’s just one problem with The Litany, just one slight little wee imperfection: every item in that dim and dreary recitation, each and every last claim, is false.... Thus saith The Doomslayer, one Julian L. Simon, a neither shy nor retiring nor particularly mild-mannered professor of business administration at a middling eastern-seaboard state university. Simon paints a somewhat different picture of the human condition circa 1997. ‘Our species is better off in just about every measurable material way,’ he says. ‘Just about every important long-run measure of human material welfare shows improvement over the decades and centuries, in the United States and the rest of the world. Raw materials — all of them — have become less scarce rather than more. The air in the US and in other rich countries is irrefutably safer to breathe. Water cleanliness has improved. The environment is increasingly healthy, with every prospect that this trend will continue.’”

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This View’s Column

Wolves in Shepherd’s Clothing

Perfidious Priests and What Must Be Done About Them (Part Two)

The column is also available on This View’s Column page, without the links on the left- and right-hand of the page.

“With a whole population able to read, with cheap newspapers day by day conveying the news of every court, great and small to every home or even cottage, it is plain that we are at the mercy of even one unworthy member or false brother. It is true that the laws of libel are a great protection to us as to others. But the last few years have shown us what harm can be done us by the mere infirmities, not so much as the sins, of one or two weak minds. There is an immense store of curiosity directed upon us in this country, and in great measure an unkind, a malicious curiosity. If there ever was a time when one priest will be a spectacle to men and angels it is in the age now opening upon us....” (J. H. Newman, October 2, 1873)

Cardinals Law, Mahony, and Egan

I concluded last time with Bernard Cardinal Law’s perplexing detachment from the situation he himself had helped to create, as reported in the Boston Globe, Mar. 10:

In his response at the end of the convocation, Law said, “In my most horrible nightmares, I would never have imagined that we would have come to the situation in which we find ourselves.”

Foreboding is added to my perplexity upon re-reading the article, which also contains this revealing notice:

“For more than two months, we have been inundated by the media with details of that awful history,” Law said. “It has left us sad, it has left us angry, and it has robbed us of that trust which a short while ago we took for granted.”

Excuse me, Cardinal Law: neither the media nor the reports of an “awful history” have robbed Boston’s faithful of the trust they had taken for granted: you yourself, personally, have done so by being partly responsible for some of the egregious “details” of that “awful history”.

As reported, Law speaks as if he had been standing in a crowd next to a street when he was suddenly struck by a car veering off the road. Actually, he is more like a passenger who had been telling the driver how well he was handling the car as it barreled down the sidewalk.

It seems to me that the cardinal cannot bring himself to face reality: his own actions, and inactions, have contributed to a situation he can’t stand. Perhaps, like Spagnolia — who didn’t mean to deceive anybody with his lies — perhaps Law has spent so much time trying to convince himself in his heart that his actions were not wrong... not so wrong... not really so wrong... they have become less than real to him. As if he was outside himself, watching somebody else make his mistakes.

Such a man is no man to be leading a clean-up of the mess he helped to make.

If a recent column by Steve Lopez in the Los Angeles Times is any indicator, the archbishop of Los Angeles may not be such a man either:

Across the land, the Catholic Church is being forced to come clean about the sins of the fathers, and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles appears to be falling into line. But the million-dollar word there is “appears.” .... In 1988, [Cardinal Roger] Mahony established a policy designed, in his words, “to do all that is humanly possible to prevent sexual abuse....” In his Sunday [Mar. 10] statement, he invoked that policy and vowed that his church “will not knowingly assign or retain a priest, deacon, religious, or layperson ... when such an individual is determined to have previously engaged in the sexual abuse of a minor.” Well, given that the policy goes back 14 years, how is it that as many as a dozen accused molesters were still on the payroll? Did Mahony just now hear about them?

Now the archbishop of New York is coming under fire, as reported in the Hartford Courant, Mar. 17:

Secret court documents reveal that New York Cardinal Edward M. Egan, while serving as bishop of the Bridgeport Roman Catholic Diocese.... Egan failed to investigate aggressively some abuse allegations, did not refer complaints to criminal authorities and, during closed testimony in 1999, suggested that a dozen people who made complaints of rape, molestation and beatings against the same priest may have all been lying, the documents show.... However, Egan, who as cardinal in New York is the highest profile Catholic in the United States, has come under growing criticism for not speaking out. On Friday, in a New York Daily News cover story headlined “Speak Up, Egan Told,” Egan’s spokesman said the cardinal planned no public statements on the issue. Egan did not respond to requests for comments about his actions in the Bridgeport cases, including a list of questions e-mailed to his office at the request of his spokesman, Joseph Zwilling. In an e-mail Saturday, Zwilling referred all questions “concerning the Diocese of Bridgeport and/or any actions that may have occured in that diocese” to Bridgeport.

One should not jump to conclusions based on newspaper reports of “secret court documents”. These documents must have been acquired by underhanded — perhaps illegal — means, and it may be unwise to trust the interpretations of what “the documents show” by those who thus acquired them. (The case is different for Boston, where the documents were made public by court order.)

But, surely, we are past the point where official silence, and stonewalling by spokesmen, is acceptable. When was it ever acceptable? And why doesn’t Cardinal Egan know this?

Hear Me Bleat

Before I continue, I would do well, I think, to establish some ground on which to speak. Am I, one of the sheep, anybody to be telling the shepherds what I think has gone wrong with the Catholic Church in the USA, why it has gone wrong, and what must be done to help to set things right?

C. S. Lewis, an Anglican Christian, addressed this very question at the beginning of his paper “Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism”, delivered May 11, 1959, to a group of Anglican priests at Westcott House, Cambridge:

Though I may have nothing but misunderstanding to lay before you, you ought to know that such misunderstandings exist. That sort of thing is easy to overlook inside one’s own circle. The minds you daily meet have been conditioned by the same studies and prevalent opinions as your own. That may mislead you. For of course as priests it is the outsiders you will have to cope with. You exist in the long run for no other purpose. The proper study of shepherds is sheep, not (save accidentally) other shepherds. And woe to you if you do not evangelize. I am not trying to teach my grandmother. I am a sheep, telling shepherds what only a sheep can tell them. And now I start my bleating. (Christian Reflections, p. 152)

The “Moral Authority” of the Bishops in the USA:
Sliding Further Down the Drain

Philip F. Lawler, editor of Catholic World Report, writes a lengthy article in the March 2002 issue. Called “The Scandal in Boston — and Beyond”, it begins thus:

Even the most imaginative dramatist, with the most malign attitude toward the Church, would have been hard pressed to produce a scenario in which the Catholic Church was humiliated as quickly and thoroughly as the Archdiocese of Boston was in the opening days of 2002. Within a matter of weeks the Catholic Church — which in theory commands the allegiance of roughly one-half the people living in the region — had been reduced to irrelevance as a force in Boston’s public affairs. (p 36)

Indeed. Since the scandal erupted in Boston, more and more bishops are, these very days, publicly dismissing from active service priests who had been accused of sexual immorality — almost always with male youths only — yet they were allowed to continue in sacred ministry; as reported in the New York Times, Mar. 17:

Within weeks, bishops across the country began purging their dioceses of priests who had been serving despite accusations of child abuse. Since January, at least 55 priests in 17 dioceses have been removed, suspended, put on administrative leave or forced to resign or retire. They include at least 6 priests in Philadelphia, 7 in Manchester, N.H., 2 in St. Louis, 2 in Maine, 1 in Fargo, N.D., and as many as 12 in Los Angeles. There are 194 Catholic dioceses in the nation.

And as I write, a controversy erupts in Brooklyn, where a priest had, several years ago, accused an older priest of having abused him and his brother in the 1970s. According to a Newsday article, Mar. 15:

The Brooklyn case stems from allegations made by two brothers, one of them a priest himself, that the Rev. Joseph P. Byrns molested them as children in Douglaston during the early 1970s when he served at St. Anastasia Church. The Rev. Timothy J. Lambert, 44, who is on leave from the diocese of Metuchen in central New Jersey, said that in a 1998 meeting with top diocesan officials, he charged that he and his brother had been molested for several years as adolescents.... “Father Byrns denied unequivocally that anything like this had happened,” said [Brooklyn Bishop Thomas] Daily’s spokesman, Frank DeRosa. “The diocese spoke with him carefully and closely on a number of occasions and was satisfied with his denial.”

If convincing denials were all that is necessary, nobody would be in jail for anything. Is that not obvious? Why was it not obvious to Brooklyn diocesan officials as recently as 1998? Here’s an answer:

Lambert says it came down simply to the priest’s word against his and his brother’s. “I was a priest. He was a priest,” he said. “What made me less credible than him? In my view, the only thing was that if they believed him, they had more to lose if they didn’t.”

The deleterious effect on what is often called the “moral authority” of the bishops, of which Lawler writes about in Boston, will spread, or is already spreading, across the country.

The phrase “moral authority” is vague and ambiguous. What people really mean, I think, when they say that somebody, or some group or organization, has lost the “moral authority” to lead or to guide, or even to stake a meaningful position, is this: the person, the group, the organization have demonstrated that they can no longer be trusted to be honest, upright, straightforward persons of integrity who stand for what they say they stand for — so nobody gives a damn any more what they say.

How is it demonstrated? Breaking promises while feigning their fulfillment; saying one thing while doing another; declining to abide by rules that one expects everybody else to follow; hiding behind lawyers when open honesty is called for. One or another bishop has done this, and more, in cases of immoral priests. For decades. And still today.

How can decent human beings — let alone faithful Catholics and other Christians — ignore these kinds of breaches? In the New York Times article quoted above, it is put this way:

All sides agree that the church is in danger of losing the moral credibility in speaking out on political and social issues, including the death penalty and the status of Jerusalem. “If the church does not respond vigorously to this scandal, then the authority the hierarchy has to teach morally will vanish,” said R. Scott Appleby, director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame. “It won’t just be a crisis, it will be all over but the shouting. There will be no moral credibility for the bishops to speak about justice, truth, racial equality, war or immigration if they can’t get their own house in order.”

Similarly, in an editorial in the New York Post, Mar. 17:

Last week, the cardinal [Edward Egan of New York] invoked church-state separation as he again requested a “conscience clause” — an exemption on moral grounds for religion-linked organizations — in any state legislation to make contraception coverage mandatory in employer health plans have. Fair enough. But there won’t be much political support for a conscience clause if the church seems to have lost its conscience — that is, if it appears willing to tolerate serial pedophiles in its midst.

The “Moral Authority” of the Bishops in the USA:
They Themselves Had Opened the Drain

But those who are already looking — whether with glee or with dismay — to January 2002 as the beginning of the end of the “moral authority” of the episcopacy in the USA will need to readjust the focus of their lenses: the real collapse of the “moral authority” of the American bishops began in 1968. Events of early 2002 merely demonstrate the seedier, sorrier aspects of the effect that the bishops’ actions, and inactions, have had on the faith, morality and daily life of Catholics in America, priests and laity alike.

What happened in 1968? Certain Catholic theologians in the USA brazenly distorted the Catholic faith in the most public way they could manage; the American bishops let them get away with it; worse, they eventually lent a false legitimacy by which further brazen distortion of the Catholic faith — disguised by the euphemism “dissent” — could continue unabated.

To set the stage, we must review the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the authority of the pope and bishops to authentically establish Catholic doctrine. (Yes, we must.)

Vatican II reaffirmed the common understanding of the Catholic faith: that when the pope, or the body of bishops together with him, have definitively or repeatedly taught a given doctrine as part of the Catholic faith, then the doctrine is no longer legitimately subject to debate or dispute among Catholics, even by bishops and theologians. I suppose this may seem shocking, especially to Protestants, who are accustomed to fashioning a faith according to their liking from their own interpretation of the Bible, and to Americans, who are rightly accustomed to the idea that laws and politics are continually open to debate and change by voters, legislators, governors and presidents, and judges. The Catholic faith, however, has always been understood by Catholics to have been handed on in the Church from Jesus Christ through His apostles. And the authority to determine true doctrine, definitively and especially in cases of dispute, has always been understood to belong to the pope and the bishops in communion with him.

Yes, Vatican II changed nothing in this traditional understanding. In fact, the Council explicitly and specifically embraced it in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium 25:

In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium [teaching authority] of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra [definitively with the fullness of his office as universal pastor]; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking.

On July 25, 1968, Pope Paul VI issued Humanae Vitae, his famous encyclical on the regulation of birth. Little did he suspect the ambush being brewed by “Catholic” “theologians” in the United States, whose ringleader was Fr. Charles Curran.

Word of the encyclical reached America by publication on July 29. The story of its reception is told by Catholic historian Kenneth Whitehead, in an article in the March/April 1998 issue of Catholic Dossier:

In spite of the fact that the encyclical contained solid traditional Church teaching, the reaction to Humanae Vitae was nevertheless a veritable explosion of dissent from both inside and outside the Church. The incredulity mixed with disillusionment concerning both the person of Paul VI and his re-affirmation of the Church’s teaching was simply massive; and it included probably a majority, at least in North America and Europe, of the Church’s own working theologians, many of whom had already gone out on a limb and openly called for a change in the Church’s teaching. The judgment of these people was that the papal Magisterium [the teaching office of the pope] was simply wrong.

The day after Pope Paul VI’s encyclical was issued, a group of theologians at the Catholic University of America, for example, issued a statement eventually subscribed to by more than 600 theologians and other professional specialists in canon law and related disciplines in North America, in which they asserted that dissent from the encyclical was entirely licit — mostly because, they claimed, the encyclical was “not an infallible teaching,” thus consciously setting aside Lumen Gentium #25 which, of course, required their assent to the encyclical whether or not it was infallible.

Whitehead is diplomatic. He says the signers of the statement — many (if not most) of them among “the Church’s own working theologians” — issued their declaration by “consciously setting aside” the teaching of the Second Vatican Council.

I am not so diplomatic. I say they lied. They were liars and, in some cases, they are still liars.

And what happened to these lying Catholic theologians? Many of whom were in official positions in dioceses or religious orders or Catholic colleges. And, thus, on the Church’s payroll. Did their bishops demand that they be honest and either rescind their signature or find another way to make a living?

No. So far as I know, nothing was done to any of the liars. In fact, most of them were eventually rewarded by promotions or by fame or by influence — more influence among Catholics, indisputably, than the bishops themselves have had.

Thus began the collapse of the “moral authority” of the Catholic bishops in the USA.

The Bishops’ Munich Pact

Unsatisfied, apparently, with merely failing in one of their chief responsibilities — to uphold the Catholic faith — by ridding the Church of public liars, the American bishops soon issued “norms” by which liars could proceed to further undermine the Catholic faith, yet continue as “Catholic” “theologians”. These “norms” were part of a statement the bishops issued November 15, 1968:

Norms of Licit Theological Dissent

49. There exist in the Church a lawful freedom of inquiry and of thought and also general norms of licit dissent. This is particularly true in the area of legitimate theological speculation and research. When conclusions reached by such professional theological work prompt a scholar to dissent from noninfallible received teaching, the norms of licit dissent come into play. They require of him careful respect for the consciences of those who lack his special competence or opportunity for judicious investigation. These norms also require setting forth his dissent with propriety and with regard for the gravity of the matter and the deference due the authority which has pronounced on it.

50. The reverence due all sacred matters, particularly questions which touch on salvation, will not necessarily require the responsible scholar to relinquish his opinion but certainly to propose it with prudence born of intellectual grace and a Christian confidence that the truth is great and will prevail.

51. When there is question of theological dissent from noninfallible doctrine, we must recall that there is always a presumption in favor of the magisterium. Even noninfallible authentic doctrine, though it may admit of development or call for clarification or revision, remains binding and carries with it a moral certitude, especially when it is addressed to the Universal Church, without ambiguity, in response to urgent questions bound up with faith and crucial to morals. The expression of theological dissent from the magisterium is in order only if the reasons are serious and well-founded, if the manner of the dissent does not question or impugn the teaching authority of the Church and is such as not to give scandal.

52. Since our age is characterized by popular interest in theological debate, and given the realities of modern mass media, the ways in which theological dissent may be effectively expressed, in a manner consistent with pastoral solicitude, should become the object of fruitful dialogue between bishops and theologians. These have their diverse ministries in the Church, their distinct responsibilities to the faith, and their respective charisma.

53. Even responsible dissent does not excuse one from faithful presentation of the authentic doctrine of the Church when one is performing a pastoral ministry in her name.

54. We count on priests, the counselors of persons and families, to heed the appeal of Pope Paul that they “expound the Church’s teaching on marriage without ambiguity”; that they “diminish in no way the saving teaching of Christ,” but “teach married couples the indispensable way of prayer... without ever allowing them to be discouraged by their weakness” (Humanae Vitae, 29). We commend to confessors, as does Pope Paul, the example of the Lord Himself, Who was indeed intransigent with evil, but merciful towards individuals.

There you have it: the American bishops’ Munich Pact. How’s that? David Gelernter wrote about the Munich Pact the other day in The Weekly Standard:

Everyone knows about Munich, September 1938: Britain and France generously donate a big slice of Czechoslovakia to Hitler, in exchange for “peace with honor,” “peace in our time,” and the Brooklyn Bridge. Many people know about the Kristallnacht pogrom, November 1938: Germany’s approach to the Jews turns from mere oppression to bloodthirsty violence. Kristallnacht was “triggered” by the murder of a German diplomat by a deranged Jew. But some (not all) historians point out the obvious: A leading cause of Kristallnacht was Munich itself. Hitler read the Munich agreements as a proclamation by England and France stating: “We are weak; you have nothing to fear; do what you like.”

Following Gelernter’s lead, allow me to translate: “Norms of Licit Theological Dissent” is bishop-speak for “We are weak; you have nothing to fear; do what you like.”

Indeed, we may see a foreshadowing in the bishops’ capitulation, 1968, of their spooky reluctance to face the reality of the situation they must deal with in 2002: the stupidity (at the least) of having kept immoral priests in sacred ministry. As Whitehead put it:

This whole elaborate effort of the U.S. bishops [issuing “Norms of Licit Theological Dissent”] was an exercise in unreality, since not one of the conditions they specified was ever observed by the actual dissenters; quite the contrary, for the most part. (emphasis added)

Results of the American Bishops’ Capitulation

Church authorities that have spent the past three decades hiding criminals from justice — criminals like very rare pedophiles (some of them heterosexual) and less rare ephebophiles (all of them homosexual) — began by allowing liars to continue working among them.

Germany, after Chamberlain’s attempt to appease Hitler, had soon invaded and conquered a great deal of Europe; “Catholic” “theologians”, after the bishops’ attempt at appeasement, soon effectively declared Catholic life in its entirety — faith and morals, doctrine and discipline, history and tradition, parcel and part, bit and piece, jot and tittle — open to serious debate, doubt, and even denial.

It has been a power struggle, plain and simple: the bishops and the Catholic faith have, so far, lost.

An essay by Msgr. George A. Kelly in the March 2002 issue of Catholic World Report puts it thus:

The most important and enduring scandal in the Catholic Church of the United States is the established and continued existence of what Pope John Paul II has called a “counter-magisterium” — a rival teaching office that confutes, confounds, and contradicts what the Pope and the bishops in union with him set forth as the Gospel of Jesus Christ regarding human beings, their destiny in this life and the next. The #2 scandal is the downgrading of orthodoxy as an essential standard norm of Catholic belief, and the consequent downsizing of “right belief” as normative for teachers and pastors.... The scandal consists in the harm done to faith in Christ’s Church by the continued and unopposed power exercised by these anti-magisterial forces, which use Catholic colleges and schools, religious societies, and so-called pastoral entities in opposition to the settled mind and law of the Church. (p. 48)

A recent expostulation by Andrew Sullivan illustrates how the distortion of Vatican II has become entrenched to the point that an intelligent writer can take as fact what has no foundation whatever in the teachings of the Council. Sullivan, who is (for lack of a better word) a practicing homosexual but nonetheless claims to be a faithful Catholic, wrote thus, Mar. 14, concerning some “difficult issues” in a section entitled “Sparing Rod”:

The first is whether the Church has a single unchanging doctrine on every matter of morals which every Catholic is obliged to assent to and practice at all times. This is a common view among pre-Vatican II Catholics, ex-Catholics and non-Catholics. It’s wrong. The Church is not a democracy, but neither is it a Vatican dictatorship. The Second Vatican Council specifically carved out a larger area for the laity to discuss, reflect upon and debate matters of morals, of the application of broad principles to particular issues, and so on. We – not just the Pope – are also the Church. For example, most Catholics find the complete bar on any birth control to be, not to put too fine a point on it, bizarre. When the Church imposes something by diktat that the faithful cannot square with their own moral sense, experience and prayerful reflection, two things happen. The laity ignores it; and the hierarchy loses credibility. To a lesser extent, the Church’s teachings on re-marriage, the role of women, celibacy, and homosexuality are also so theologically muddled and troubling upon inspection that they have generated considerable debate. Bottom line: I don’t think such debate is faithless or un-Catholic.

Sullivan posted a letter from a reader, who asked the following: “Where specifically did Vatican II carve out a broader area for the laity to debate the Pope on matters of morals?” The question will go unanswered, of course, because Vatican II did no such thing: “Catholic” “theologians” who wanted to carve out a larger area for their own influence have convinced many Catholics of it, though.

He also posted part of a letter from Catholic philosopher Alexander R. Pruss, who has provided me with the entirety of his letter:

I see several misconceptions in your piece “Sparing Rod” that I thought I should respond to both as a Catholic born after Vatican II and as someone who teaches ethics.

To the extent that the Church is a democracy, it is a democracy that enfranchises all the generations of Catholics before us. Seen in this way, the Church’s official teachings on sexual matters are, as far as we know, the beliefs of the majority of Catholics. While there is a sense of the faith among Catholics, any one Catholic’s sense, or even the sense of the majority of Catholics at a given time, can be clouded. After all, according to a 1992 Gallup poll, only 30% of Catholics accept the correct view of the Eucharist. If someone’s eyesight of clearly visible objects is defective, we disregard his testimony about more murky objects. Likewise, if a Catholic gets wrong things on which the Church is completely clear like abortion or the Eucharist, then his sense of the faith is not functioning properly, and so his views on things like contraception that are somewhat more controversial are irrelevant.

Some Catholics may indeed find the Church’s teachings on matters like contraception “bizarre”. But this is only because they are unaware of the work of philosophers like John Finnis, Germain Grisez, Janet Smith and Karol Wojtyla. Once one understood this work, even if one were not persuaded (as I think one should be: see my own articles at www.georgetown.edu/faculty/ap85), one would no longer be able sincerely to call the teachings “bizarre.” On the contrary, one would see the Church as espousing a coherent, plausible and all-encompassing ethic of sexual love based on the notion of ontological self-giving.

Your references to Vatican II are puzzling, largely due to a lack of specific references. According to Vatican II, whenever the bishops at any one time unanimously teach that a position is to be definitively held, then that position is thereby infallibly taught (Lumen Gentium, 25). No doubt, the bishops in, say, the 13th or 18th century were in unanimous agreement that it was to be definitively held that, say, homosexual acts and contraception are wrong. Hence this is infallibly taught.

Sexuality is central to human life, and is closely tied to that which is at the center of the Gospels: love. If the Church is wrong on contraception, re-marriage, celibacy and homosexuality, then the Church over the past twenty centuries has got a central area of human life almost completely wrong. Thinking that the Church is so massively wrong about love is indeed un-Catholic.

Some might call Pruss’s explanation pathetically old-fashioned; others might call it remarkably brave. It is neither: an informed, intelligent, articulate Protestant or Muslim or atheist could say as much as Pruss wrote to Sullivan — so long as he honestly intended to accurately express the Catholic faith.

But wolves in shepherd’s clothing have managed to undermine, diminish, and distort the Catholic faith while claiming the aegis of the Second Vatican Council, though a careful — no, even a casual reading — of the Council’s documents will reveal, as already indicated here, that this has been done in spite of the Council, not because of it.

The American bishops will regain their “moral authority” when they start acting like Catholic bishops, acknowledging by word and deed their momentous responsibility to safeguard and hand on the faith they have received from the Apostles. And not before then.

Am I saying that “dissent” from Catholic faith and life caused the outbreak of immoral priests in our midst? No. But there is, indeed, a very good argument to be made that confusion about Church teaching, caused by deliberate and public deception by prominent “Catholic” “theologians”, contributed to the outbreak and “justification” of immoral behavior among Catholics of all stripes.

Here’s a bit of evidence from an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Mar. 17; the story is about retired priest Joseph P. Lessard, now 76, who admits to having molested boys back in the 1960s and 1970s:

His first victim was a boy of about 12, the son of a couple from a neighboring parish whom he knew well. Lessard, an avid outdoorsman, arranged a fishing trip. After fishing, he took the boy back to the rectory and “started fooling around,” which he said involved touching each other’s genitals and masturbating. “I emotionally and physically wanted to have sex with him,” Lessard said. “There was a mutual interest in having sexual gratification.” The abuse went on for a couple years.... Lessard said he was guilt-free, believing he was educating the boys in sex. He didn’t consider this breaking his vow of celibacy. It didn’t seem as if he was hurting anyone.

If anybody has any evidence that It’s OK As Long As Nobody Gets Hurt was an attitude one could find among parish priests of even one generation earlier, please let me know.

The connection between this particular priest and the distortion of Vatican II, however, is quite direct, and does not need to be surmised; the article later quotes a man who says that he had been one of Lessard’s victims:

“My parents loved him. They would rather me be out with him than roaming the streets,” said the man, to whom the archdiocese paid $60,000 in 1997. “He had a camper. A big mobile home, and lots of great places to go camping and hunting and fishing. He knew several people who had farms and great fishing ponds around Chesterfield.” Lessard talked openly about masturbation, the man said. It wasn’t a sin anymore after the Second Vatican Council, Lessard would say. He wouldn’t let up on the subject. (emphasis added)

If the bishops are to restore their “moral authority”, they must go further back, and deeper down, than merely dealing with immoral priests in their ranks: they must root out Catholic professionals in official positions who effectively confute, confound, and contradict the settled mind and law of the Catholic Church.

Is this such an unthinkable request?

  • If the Democratic candidate for the governorship of a state actively did his best to promote the candidacy for state legislature of every Republican on the ballot throughout the state, how many votes would he get from Democrats?
  • If the new Republican governor appointed only Democrats to his cabinet, wouldn’t there be calls for impeachment?
  • If the president of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod announced that he believes the pope is Christ’s Vicar on earth, would he remain long in office?
  • If the president of Bob Jones University started filling positions with conservative Catholic educators, would he not be suspected of trying to change the thinking of the university?
  • If a CBS reporter wrote an article criticizing the left-leaning bias of his organization, would he remain in good standing there for very long?

That last example takes us from hypotheses to a real situation. And here is another: if professional Catholic theologians and pastors and religious — on the Church’s payroll, at all levels — effectively compromise Catholic faith and life to the point where they are becoming indistinguishable from the prevailing secular milieu, why are these men and women not called subversive traitors and expelled?

Okay, we could call them something else. C. S. Lewis knew what to call subversion of the faith by clergy, in an interview in 1963, when he was asked what he thought of contemporary Christian writing:

A great deal of what is being published by writers in the religious tradition is a scandal and is actually turning people away from the church. The liberal writers who are continually accommodating and whittling down the truth of the Gospel are responsible. I cannot understand how a man can appear in print claiming to disbelieve everything that he presupposes when he puts on the surplice. I feel it is a form of prostitution. (God in the Dock, p. 260)

Call it prostitution; call it traitorous subversion; call it dissent: it must be rooted out of the Catholic Church in the USA to effectively restore the bishops’ “moral authority” among Catholics, and the Church’s “moral authority” in public life.

This column will continue next time in The View.

© ELC 2002

The column is also available on This View’s Column page, without the links on the left- and right-hand of the page.

Potshots

Shot One. Unbelievable. As CNN reported, Mar. 12:

Six months to the day after Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Immigration and Naturalization Service notified a Venice, Florida, flight school that the two men had been approved for student visas.

How about that? Dead terroristic hijackers are still welcome in the USA. What a country!

The article continues:

“I think it is certainly embarrassing that the letters show up at this late date,” said INS spokesman Russ Bergeron. “It does serve to illustrate what we have been saying since 1995 — that the current system for collecting information and tracking foreign students is antiquated, outdated, inaccurate and untimely.”

Embarrassing? No. I think it is revealing: there will be another massacre of innocents in the USA because terrorists will take advantage of the bloated, blundering incompetence of the federal government. That government will fail, again, catastrophically, to perform one of its most important constitutional obligations: to provide for the common defense.

It goes on:

Former INS District Director Tom Fischer told CNN that “the letters should never have been sent.” Their delivery, he said, was “a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing.”

Wow. They were never supposed to have been sent. Who’da thunk it?

And, hey, Mr. Fischer. The saying is the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing. And it’s a metaphor employed by Jesus Christ for something He recommends. Not an excuse for incompetence.

Shot Two. William Federer wrote a brief biography of St. Patrick for WorldNetDaily, Mar. 16; it begins thus:

He was neither a leprechaun, an elf, nor full of blarney. He did not drink green beer or wear a ‘Kiss me, I’m Irish’ pin, but what he did was of eternal value to thousands. His name was Patrick.

Though I do admire Federer’s attempt to set the record straight about a man whose memory has been largely debased and trivialized, I have to wonder why he did not use the words priest or bishop or pope in his article. (Minister and ministry appear, though.)

Seeing as how St. Patrick was, first, a priest and later a bishop of the Catholic Church, and was sent on his mission to Ireland by St. Pope Celestine I, I cannot help but suspect that Federer didn’t wish to stir the ire of the fundamentalistic Protestant anti-Catholic bigots among WND’s readership.

© ELC 2002

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new The 1911 Edition Encyclopedia Britannica
“This 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica is filled with historical information that is still relevant today. It fills 29 volumes and contains over 44 million words. The articles are written by more than 1500 authors within their various fields of expertise.”

Other columnists

Jonah Goldberg
National Review Online

Fred Reed
Commentary with Moxie

Deb Weiss
A View from Here

Peggy Noonan
Opinion Journal

Diane Alden
inflyovercountry

Bill Dunn
Faith and Funnies

Ann Coulter
Town Hall

Steve Milloy
Fox News

Michael Kelly
Washington Post

Mark Steyn
National Post

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Important series and multi-part articles of news or opinion

A chronicle of high-level USA government actions in September 2001, at two websites:

Ten Days in September (WP)
“This series is based on interviews with President Bush, Vice President Cheney and many other key officials inside the administration and out. The interviews were supplemented by notes of National Security Council meetings made available to The Washington Post, along with notes taken by several participants.”

Response to Terror (Austin American Stateman)
“This is an eight-part series by The Washington Post describing the response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the highest levels of government.”

new Fighting Terrorism: America Retaliates
“Archive stories from the Boston Globe: Tuesday Sept. 11 – Sunday Sept. 16”

A three-part series on Environmentalism by Diane Alden @ NewsMax:

The Green Matrix (Part One)
“The people who rule the green matrix seek to centrally plan our lives. They have adopted the same philosophy as those who drove the peasants off the land in Russia. They are of the same mind as the Red Guard in China. They are willing to sacrifice science, the truth and freedom, as well as the well-being of humans and the environment, in order to promote their utopian vision for the world — a vision that considers man a cancer on the land. Strangely, the term ‘green matrix’ comes up in many of their studies, claims and policy papers. But this isn’t a movie. It is the new totalitarian vision.”

The Green Matrix (Part Two): They Blinded Us With Science
“The more serious problem, however, is that over the years agencies have been co-opted by those with a much larger agenda in mind. It is not just about listing one species and shutting down one or two forests for public use, i.e., ‘managing federal lands.’ As the greens say, ‘Think globally and act locally.’ That mantra is at the core and heart of U.S. environmental policy. It is fair to say that in the Forest Service and Fish and Wildlife Service ‘science’ got dumped years ago. It was a process that began in the ’70s but received official imprimatur under Bill Clinton in 1993. At that time, philosophy replaced ‘science.’ Conservation biology became the ‘science,’ and ‘ecosystem management’ and ‘precautionary principle’ the tools. The end game was to reconnect ‘ecosystems’ from the Yukon to Mexico.”

new The Green Matrix (Part 3): Weird Science – Think Globally
“Modern environmentalism has become the best single tool to fulfill the fondest wishes of the international control freaks and central planners. It is the new ideological agenda replacing communism and capitalism. It is, in fact, a lethal mix of both. Alan Caruba of the National Anxiety Center calls it ‘fascilism.’ In implementing the various environmental wish lists, we don’t get cleaner air and water. But we do get a new religion and a new economic system. In addition, the old time religion is being replaced by a green Zen Buddhism on one hand, and tyranny and repression on the other. If you follow the logic of ‘ecosystem’ management, that is where we're headed as we wend our way through the holistic approach for the ‘collective good.’”

A three-part series “Driving a Wedge” in the Boston Globe:

new Why bin Laden plot relied on Saudi hijackers
“Senior US officials and Saudi Interior Ministry officials involved with the investigation into the involvement of Saudi nationals in the attacks say they now believe bin Laden’s Al Qaeda actively sought out young Saudi volunteers from this region for their ‘jihad.’ The investigation is beginning to reveal a picture of how bin Laden, a native of the Saudi southwest, exploited the young hijackers by playing off the region's deep tribal affiliations, itseconomic dis-enfranchisement, anditsown burning brand of Wahhabi fundamentalism which the kingdom's religious hierarchy fosters in the schools.”

new Saudi schools fuel anti-US anger
“US diplomats and Saudi specialists say Saudi schools are the foundation of the broader society in which the House of Saud has for decades tolerated extremists within the religious hierarchy to set a tone — in schools as well as on national television and radio airways — of open bigotry toward non-Muslims, contempt even for those non-Sunni Muslims from other branches of the faith such as the Shiite, and of virulent anti-Americanism. This, US and Saudi observers here say, has been part of an unofficial deal: The kingdom gave the religious establishment control of the schools as long as it didn’t question the legitimacy of the monarchy’s power. The United States went along with this tacit agreement as long as the oil kept flowing, its troops stayed in the country, and the House of Saud remained on the throne.”

new Doubts are cast on the viability of Saudi monarchy for long term
“The House of Saud — the 30,000-member ruling family headed by 3,000 princes — has long been so riddled with corruption that even Crown Prince Abdullah has said the culture of royal excess has to come to an end. It has ruled over the kingdom with documented human rights abuses and, as one Western diplomat put it, a form of ‘gender apartheid’ for women. Democracy has never been part of the equation. These palace indulgences have been tolerated by Washington for far too long, critics say, because of a US policy dependent on Saudi Arabia'’s vast oil reserves, Riyadh’s purchase of an estimated $4 billion a year worth of US weapons, and its pivotal role as host to 5,000 American troops. Since Franklin Delano Roosevelt agreed a half century ago to defend the kingdom in exchange for ready access to oil, the balance between US interests and US ideals in Saudi Arabia has always tipped in favor of Washington’s economic and strategic interests.”

A three-part article on some current thinking on the Koran in The Atlantic:

What is the Koran? (Part 1)
“Some of the parchment pages in the Yemeni hoard seemed to date back to the seventh and eighth centuries A.D., or Islam’s first two centuries — they were fragments, in other words, of perhaps the oldest Korans in existence. What’s more, some of these fragments revealed small but intriguing aberrations from the standard Koranic text. Such aberrations, though not surprising to textual historians, are troublingly at odds with the orthodox Muslim belief that the Koran as it has reached us today is quite simply the perfect, timeless, and unchanging Word of God.”

What is the Koran? (Part 2)
“Deviating from the orthodox interpretation of the Koran, says the Algerian Mohammed Arkoun, a professor emeritus of Islamic thought at the University of Paris, is ‘a very sensitive business’ with major implications. ‘Millions and millions of people refer to the Koran daily to explain their actions and to justify their aspirations,’ Arkoun says. ‘This scale of reference is much larger than it has ever been before.’”

What is the Koran? (Part 3)
“Gerd-R. Puin speaks with disdain about the traditional willingness, on the part of Muslim and Western scholars, to accept the conventional understanding of the Koran. ‘The Koran claims for itself that it is “mubeen,” or “clear,” he says. ‘But if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn’t make sense. Many Muslims — and Orientalists — will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Koranic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Koran is not comprehensible — if it can’t even be understood in Arabic — then it’s not translatable. People fear that. And since the Koran claims repeatedly to be clear but obviously is not — as even speakers of Arabic will tell you — there is a contradiction. Something else must be going on.’”

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The View from the Core, and all original material, © E. L. Core 2002. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”