Violence is a real problem and a consequence of free speech. Can you imagine if people just said whatever they wanted? You’d have people mistrusting government. You might even start a violent revolution that overthrows the government, may Dear Leader forbid it!
Using “free speech” as a cop-out is intellectually dishonest and morally bankrupt. Yes, free speech is a glorious pastime of our wonderful, prosperous empire, but it’s not the only one. It must be held in tension with other values, such as equality, safety, good citizenship, worshiping me, and stamping out anyone who would be foolish enough to speak up against our utopia.
Look, I am not calling for repealing free speech entirely. What I’m arguing for is silencing those whose speech your majestic rulers—namely, me—find to be potentially seditious. Only when speech is carefully policed, with your betters determining what can be said and what cannot be said, can speech truly be “free.”
While Planned Parenthood tries to downplay their abortion activity on one hand, falsely claiming it’s a minuscule fraction of what they do, on the other they are also extremely proud of what they do to babies. Millions of tiny humans enter through the front door of a Planned Parenthood clinic warm and secure in their mother’s wombs with a beating heart and a growing body. They leave out the back door as trash, alone and in parts. It’s impossible to make that look virtuous, but these folks try their best.
As the abortion industrial complex grows bolder in telling us what it’s actually about, it is time for all decent people of conscience to join them. Stop glossing over what abortion actually is. Cease being reticent about explaining its reality. It’s time for gentle boldness, to call out what these people do (and literally exult in) for the dark atrocity it is.
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A good and moral society does not celebrate death. A good and moral society does not celebrate those who do. It does not assume a baby is a problem to be destroyed. It does not tell women in crisis that their only solution lies in betraying their own natures and ending the glorious, miraculous life that grows right below her heart.
It comes to her aid, giving her hope and everyday, practical help, before, at, and after the birth of her child. That’s what the pro-life movement does. It doesn’t give her a cold, sterile procedure for a fee and wish her well. That’s what abortionists do. Which is truly more pro-woman?
Abortion is unnatural, dramatically so. It is anti-human. It does not enhance or enrich our collective humanity. It is vile and it is evil. It springs from and reveals our worst natures. No amount of anger, violence, name-calling, knitted “genitalia” caps and profanity screamed from bullhorns during so-called women’s marches can justify it. It’s a fool’s errand to make what is inherently wicked seem moral. It’s a soulless people who try.
There isn’t that much organic outrage in the world; it is by necessity manufactured.
If only there were some easy way to distinguish between the decent and well-intentioned and the callous and hateful. Perhaps we should consider the philosophical maxim of Raylan Givens: “If you get up in the morning and you meet an a**hole, you met an a**hole. If you meet nothing but a**holes all day, you’re the a**hole.”
If you believe that H. sap. is only time’s favorite monkey — that man is meat — then there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for the kind of behavior we’re talking about, and no need to justify it, since there is nobody to justify it to. If you believe that man ought to be better, it implies that he can be better, and that “better” means something. And here materialism fails us, which is why Marxism became an ersatz religion. Christianity is a fortunate religion in the sense that the endless moral failings of its leaders (and followers) keeps illustrating, generation after generation, the fundamental facts of the creed. The creeds based on human perfectibility, which is the romantic notion at the heart of all utopian thinking, have as their main problem the countervailing example of everybody you’ve ever met and ever will.
It is tempting to make like the Pharisee rather than the publican and say: “God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.” It is unpleasant to meditate on the truth at the center of Christianity, and perhaps at the center of all wisdom: I am like the rest of men, extortioners, unrighteous. (I have never been guilty of collecting taxes.) We must sympathize with the victims and care for them, but we must also identify with the malefactors, who are made of the same stuff as we are, cut from the same crooked timber.
Interestingly, we do have a movement in the United States in which a far larger percentage of high school and college students engage each year: the March for Life.
The March for Life rally is an annual event that even the progressive Daily Beast acknowledges “has become something of a magnet for college and high school groups.” This is all-but-ignored by the media and certainly never held up by the left as a reason to overturn Roe v. Wade, let alone repeal a Constitutional amendment.
Crowd size estimates are difficult, and March for Life attendance varies each year. However, the March for Life has attracted larger crowds each year (excepting 2016 when a blizzard in DC affected attendance): estimates for 2012 show that 400,000 attended, in 2013, an estimated 650,000 attended.
Crowd size isn’t the narrative, though some media outlets attempted to make it a part of the narrative with outrageous claims about “March for Our Lives” attendance.
When was the last time you saw a CNN town hall that focused on the “schoolchildren” who oppose abortion and support life? When was the last time you saw a group of pro-life high school students hailed as the voice of their generation, a voice we should all listen to without question? When was the last time a pro-life student became so well-known that he or she appeared on morning, daytime, and evening talk shows and was the 24/7 topic of cable news outlets?
According to the leftist anti-Second Amendment crowd, we need to take seriously the demands of teenagers . . . unless the issue is abortion. As usual, the issue is not “the children,” the issue is forwarding an anti-American agenda and using “the children” as pawns.
Is it alright to express outrage against excessive displays of outrage? I ask this more in curiosity than in anger.
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“I am outraged by your outrage, sir,” is a line I have tried in several situations. Or, “ma’am,” as the case may be — spoken in the voice of unturbulent irony. It worked once, as anything might, calculated to make one’s assailant laugh. The trick is to undermine his self-importance, and this is easier to perform while it is over-exposed. Mere escalation will not have this effect, nor any other form of competition in which spectators are left to vote on which party is the greater lunatic.
For God, in His infinite foresight, has so arranged the human condition that reason has at least a chance. The Christian yoga of self-containment puts anger to its proper uses. Or, should gentle reader prefer: the principles of balance and leverage in judo.
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[I]t is well to remember that outrage never works for long. It makes a dramatic opening for conflict, but can only be sustained with the sort of acting which, as we are beginning to see in Natted States Merica and elsewhere, soon wears on any audience. “Yes,” one might reflect to oneself, “it is quite outrageous that they are crazy and we are sane.”
[O]f course one can miss anything, if one is sufficiently obtuse. It is what makes our modern, happyface, deist unitarianism possible; along with atheism and a few other things.
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From the little I was able to understand in my own readings on “comparative religion” — back in the day — I was struck most forcibly not by the theological differences of the Eastern churches, but by their familiarity, across the board. Separated, as we have often been through many generations, the pattern of Liturgy remains the same. It seems to lie discernibly beneath each refinement. It is like reading alternative translations of the same original poem. That Poem being Christ.
Something mysterious has been working against syncretism in all the wandering strands of our Faith. Everywhere the idea of Epiphany remains. The accretions through the centuries seem to follow from the source, more than from external influences. There is that “Jewish” quality — for although we are not united by tribe, we are bound by calling.
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I read (still own) a history of the Christians in China, long, long before first contact with the European missionaries of the Renaissance; was impressed, in Japan, by the fact of underground Catholic survival through centuries under the threat of hideous torture. Or of the Korean Confucian converts to an unimaginably distant Nazarene — “self-taught” Catholics (from the Jesuits at Peking) whom the Jesuits arriving in the Hermit Kingdom had known nothing about. Then, as now, everywhere we go, including Antarctica in one Anglo-Argentine anecdote I could tell, there are Christians to greet Christians.
No other religion has travelled like this. But to the theophanic point, none has maintained its integrity over vast, “multicultural” isolations of space and time. And through the wormholes come the ministers of renewal. Christ does not forget those who have not forgotten Him — mother and child, through the generations.
It is easy enough to lapse, especially when every worldly advantage can come of apostasy, as has been the case through nearly fourteen centuries for Christians in the Muslim realms. The hard thing to understand is rather, why there are people who have not lapsed; who continue to die, sometimes, for their refusal to relinquish a promise that was made to their fathers, dozens of fathers ago.
The historians must explain how all of this was possible, through the “normal” or “natural” progression of events. Indeed, they have a lot of explaining to do.
Is a Christian cakemaker required to make a custom cake for a same-sex wedding, in violation of his religious beliefs? That is the issue in a case currently before the US Supreme Court. The case looks like yet another major clash between the forces of secular progressive liberalism and their Christian targets. And yet some Christians are so optimistic as to hope for a truce. For instance, the New York Times’ Ross Douthat has appealed to Justice Anthony Kennedy, who as so often will almost certainly cast the deciding vote. Despite Kennedy’s record – he composed the 2015 Obergefell decision which divined a right of same-sex marriage in the Constitution – Douthat hopes that the judge will vote to protect the baker, and so bring about some peace, of uncertain duration, between liberalism and Christianity.
In so doing, Douthat illustrates a pervasive tendency among Catholic intellectuals today: the temptation of nostalgia. He casts a wistful glance backwards, to a time in which secular progressive liberalism and what he calls “religious conservatism” peacefully coexisted. When exactly? One candidate is the period just before the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage decision, but it seems likely that by 2014 it was already too late to disband the competing forces. A better candidate is 1950-70, which Douthat believes future historians will identify as the glorious peak of the American polity. Douthat is slightly coy about whether he thinks these future historians will be correct, but it is clear that he thinks something went very wrong in American life in the 1970s, and that Hugh Hefner played an important role. One can see why 1950-1970 would appeal to a certain strain of traditional Catholic. The immediate postwar period was a time in which Catholics peacefully coexisted with the liberal Imperium, and indeed became increasingly integrated into it, helping to elect a quasi-Catholic President. Anthony Kennedy is no John F Kennedy, as it were, but in Douthat’s view “you appeal to the emperor you have.”
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Why are self-described “trad” Catholics prone to nostalgia? The typical mistake is to conflate the traditions of the Church with the traditions of the broader society. These are very different things; the Church is an ark afloat on a dangerous sea, which preserves its own internal traditions in part with walls that prevent it from being deluged by secular practices and mores. 1 Peter thus connects Catholic rootlessness and homelessness with a rejection of human political traditions, enjoining Catholics to “live out the time of your exile here in reverent awe, for you know that the price of your ransom from the futile way of life handed down from your ancestors was paid, not in anything perishable like silver or gold, but in precious blood …” Catholicism is not Burkeanism. Because Catholics are exiled in the world, they can ultimately have no attachment to man’s places and traditions, including political traditions. They can have no final affection for the misty English landscape that always stands just behind Scruton’s prose, for Reno’s polite distinction of liberal tradition and liberal creed, for the bipartisan fedora-hatted governance of Douthat’s postwar golden age, or even for Ahmari’s era of the triumph (albeit short-lived) of liberal democratic freedom after 1989.
I am going to risk a prediction: 2018 will be the year we see an end to the fighting over Amoris Laetitia.
This might seem rather presumptuous, given that just this week five bishops have underscored the Church’s traditional teaching on the reception of Communion by the divorced and remarried. The bishops’ statement is a positive delight to read for its clarity of thought and expression – especially after some of the tortured sophistries we have had to endure of late.
The document unflinchingly reminds us that some things are just wrong, and no amount of personal reflection or mitigating circumstances can change that.
Seeming to address directly the various interpretations of that single contentious footnote in Amoris Laetitia (the one Pope Francis cannot remember), the five bishops quote St John Paul II: “The confusion created in the conscience of many faithful by the differences of opinions and teachings … about serious and delicate questions of Christian morals, ends up by diminishing the true sense of sin almost to the point of eliminating it.” This describes all too well the results, and I would say the intentions, of many of the opaque and tendentious “pastoral” guidelines which have followed Amoris Laetitia.
The doctrinal errors in interpreting Amoris Laetitia are part of a serious movement afoot in the Church to undermine her clarity of thought and expression on the moral order, especially regarding marriage, sexuality and personal conscience. What drives this movement? Let’s be clear: it has nothing to do with helping divorced and remarried Catholics. Those of us who work in marriage tribunals, where canonists and priests have more contact with such couples on a daily basis than most working in bishops’ conferences have in a year, can tell you that the divorced and remarried are, in the vast majority of cases, desperately seeking clarity from the Church, not to be told to “do whatever they think is right.”
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At the time of the cultural and sexual revolution, the Church spoke powerfully and prophetically against the inevitable consequences of what was happening. In the last half-century, Paul VI’s encyclical has proven ever more prescient and relevant. It is a bitterly comical irony that, just as wider society is beginning to wake up to the consequences of a sexual ethic based solely on consent and the pursuit of personal fulfilment, the Church is having to defend herself against those within who deny not just the Church’s teaching, but the last 50 years of history which have so convincingly vindicated it.
Growing in wisdom involves growing in the discernment of who is wise, and who only parodies wisdom. While there are many ways to parody wisdom, two stand out in the age of the internet. At first glance they might seem to be opposites, but (on closer inspection) they reveal themselves to be alter-egos of one another. Tragically, each of these tendencies has plenty of public representation. Let us label their distinctive brands as “Prophetic Performers,” and “Authenticity Acts.”
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“Prophetic Performers” prey upon the humans’ natural (and good) instinct to respond to certain modes of rhetoric and prophetic inflexibility. Since humans are sometimes liable (some more than others) to say “whatever” too often, to be morally lazy, or to fail in their capacity to protect sheep from wolves, it is important that we can nevertheless be psychologically accessed by a strong rebuke, by a reminder that some things are hard, that some bits of reality are unsavory and rough-edged, sometimes you have to confront your own will and sentiments, etc.
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More popular in our era is the “Authenticity Act.” Sometimes, but not always, this person started out in the first camp and ends in the second. One will frequently hear this sort waxing eloquent about how “messy” and “complicated” life is. Rather than reducing the complexity of life, they will tend to reduce the complexity of God’s law (not to mention His character) to some vague platitudes about infinite empathy. These persons are frequently hurting and broken, and use the public platform they have to tell their personal narrative, process their lives, and garner empathy for their spiritual destination, or the turns their “journey” has taken.
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What do these two characters have in common? Fundamentally, they have a narcissistic relationship to reality. Even when they are correct (as they sometimes accidentally are), their relationship to the reality that they presumably elucidate is inflected through their final goals of self justification – whether it be of the deeply fearful valiant badass for Jesus in the case of the former, or the deeply broken demander of infinite affirmation in the case of the latter.
In both cases, what is required is getting out of one’s own head and into the world. Wise men do not safely wax about a reality which functions as their shield, but speak of it with fear and trembling. Wise men are humble before God. Wise men often admit that life is complicated. Wise men sometimes do not know the answer. Wise men are also willing to receive an answer that they find unsavory. And most importantly, wise men will ask divine help to bend their will to savor reality over their distorted sentiments.
When Catholic parents use Getting Into A Good School (even if it’s a Good Catholic School) as a motivator for everything from academics to athletics to “community service,” we embrace a cultural norm that is just as corrosive to the faith as any innovation in the understanding of marriage and sexuality. Indeed it is more corrosive, because “respectability” now contains within itself all those innovations we abhor, and want our children to abhor.
Countercultural Catholic witness, especially passed down within a family, must be comprehensive, or it will fail. We must discard the polarized lens of the “culture war,” which filters out those threats to the faith that don’t neatly fit a particular and outdated political narrative. We can’t rail against same-sex marriage and abortion on demand on Tuesday, then wax poetic about the importance of getting into a top-tier school on Wednesday, and expect our emerging adults (or anyone else) to see this as a coherent response to an ailing civilization. It is senseless to condemn respectable evils such as abortion and fornication, then to urge our children to submit themselves for judgment to the gatekeepers of respectability.
A movie some years back entitled Pay it Forward was based on the idea that those to whom good deeds had been done should “pay it forward” to others. The reality is frequently less benign. What people “pay forward” is often the result of a job poorly done or a problem unaddressed, a malfunction that gets passed along from one bureaucratic official to another until it gets dumped on someone who has neither the power nor the position to pay it forward any further.
Let’s say you are a young priest freshly graduated from a program in canon law and are assigned to a diocesan tribunal where you idealistically hope you can apply the wisdom and practices you have been taught, based on centuries of Church tradition, to the pastorally difficult challenges of annulment cases. What you find, however, is that the tribunal hasn’t been following that wisdom or those practices for years. Their attitude is “just get ‘em through,” and they reject very few annulment petitions.
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Thus when priests repeatedly tell their congregations that the key Christian virtue is “being nice,” those congregations have a hard time knowing why any Catholic institution would deny what they take to be legitimate desires, because denying people what they want is not “nice.” When you pander to the culture of autonomous liberalism and preach the Gospel of moralistic therapeutic deism, you’re nourishing the roots of our cultural weeds, many of which will sprout vigorously in the back yard of someone else who hasn’t sufficient resources to get rid of them.
So we could continue arguing bitterly and endlessly about the tribunals and the schools where the problems get dumped – though at that point, the difficulties are so great and the resources so minimal that you’d be lucky to get a Band-Aid. Or we could get serious about what’s happening in the culture, and not happening in the Church, and start making people elsewhere in the system, starting with ourselves, responsible for no longer just “paying it forward.”