Cartoonist Gary Larson’s Far Side once portrayed a herd of deer gathered around one of their number with an unfortunate bull’s eye on his chest. Another deer remarked that’s a bummer of a birthmark! Faithful Catholics are like that deer. They have an indelible bull’s eye over their hearts because of their assent to Jesus Christ and the teachings of his Church. This should come of no surprise. In all four Gospels, Jesus warned his disciples of the coming persecution.
As a grim reminder of the ultimate price of being Catholic, one need only read about the countless 1000s of martyrs who have shed their blood for their faith over the centuries. The recent rise of the bloody Islamic State throughout the world and the judicial approval of homosexual marriage and its dangerous implications for religious freedom of worship and practice have once again put Catholics in the left’s crosshairs.
This is nothing new! American History has been tainted with an anti-Catholicism that predates its Constitution. Catholic bigotry’s random appearance has found favor among a loose federation of Bible Protestants, freethinkers and atheists beholden to the anti-clericalism of the French Revolution. Its influence has permeated the so-called American Mind. This thinking has degenerated under President Obama to a way of thinking that may be easily characterized as practical atheism.
The arguments against Catholic Orthodoxy throughout history and even into the present have remained fairly consistent. Penn State Professor Philip Jenkins’ book The New Anti-Catholicism provides an overview of this history.
His exposition and analysis of the usual arguments utilized in this frontal assault on the Catholic Church, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the other past black legends is honest and comprehensive. The very mention of the Crusades, the Inquisition and any other of these historical distortions often creates a Pavlovian response of distrust in the public and even in many indifferent Catholics.
Jenkins explains that the Crusades were a reaction to the Muslim invasion of Europe. Massacres and bloody brutality characterized all religious warfare during the medieval times. He argues that to single out the Catholic examples of this brutality is unfair and intellectually dishonest. The Inquisition accounted for the execution of no more than 6,000 people over a period of 300 years. Secular governments have been responsible for far more murders than any pope.
Black legends are old accounts of historical distortions, such as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs that falsely depicted the Catholic Church as a den of anti-Semitism, racism, and mythological accounts of Spanish colonial greed and savagery.
These blatant misrepresentations of Catholic history have become popular fallacies that have been used periodically to discredit and denigrate the Church. Author Daniel Goldhagen’s virulent attacks on Pope Pius XII and the Church are a modern example of the depth of vilification used against the Church and its leaders.
Cultural acceptance of Catholics has come at an enormous cost. Membership in mainstream America often required Catholics to distance themselves from the moral principles of their faith. In his comprehensive study, Catholics, and American Culture, Jesuit Mark S. Massa traced the deep-seated need of America Catholics to belong to the American social order.
The 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy illustrated a changing paradigm. Throughout his campaign, Kennedy danced a secular jig around the religious question. He finally admitted that his Church’s teachings would never prevent him from doing his duty for the American people as if there was some inherent conflict. His stance was a far cry from that of St. Thomas More who lost his head in 1535 for his refusal to bow to King Henry VIII’s blasphemous demands.
In the 21st century Catholicism has been Americanized to the point that religion is a private concern something akin to a devout hobby that should have no influence on how one behaves in the public arena. Kennedy’s religious indifferentism has served as a model for a legion of Catholic politicians who have shamefully defended a woman’s right to kill her unborn child.
This cultural attitude has filtered down to the pews where many Catholics have become complacent or acedic in their practice and defense of their faith. Catholics are fully admitted to the cultural mainstream, only to the extent they accept and approve the cultural and moral decline that has characterized the progress of the modern era.
The cultural acquiescence of so many Catholics today underscores the fact that this threat has been much more subtle than anything Catholics had ever experienced. The new approach revolves around the Kulturkampf and the Catholic faith’s consistent opposition to the pathological evils of abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and pornography.
Father Massa’s last book, Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice deftly exposes the roots of this new wave of anti-Catholic prejudice that has permeated the social fabric. Attacking Catholics and their Church is an acceptable prejudice because the ruling elite, especially the media, all shares the same distrust and animus toward Catholics.
The Church is especially hated because of its allegiance to a foreign pontiff whose approach to life is hierarchical and anti-feminist. This puts the Church and its followers at odds with the growing religious tendencies of the American democratic faith.
Establishment Protestant leaders have always feared Catholic power because of its numerical strength and devotion to community moral principles that run counter to the existential individualism of the country’s’ religious heritage.
In many ways this attack on Catholicism is just an extension of the Marxist plan to subvert and destroy the Church. Liberals and secularist humanists have used their influence, especially in the media and Hollywood to demonize the Church for every scandal or flaw in its public edifice.
Birthmark Catholics needs to put on the moral and intellectual armor of the Church militant and fight the left in every corner of the cultural arena and the public square. They have a divine mandate to insure that the gates of Hell do not prevail against the Church in their own backyard.
The Prince and the Pauper is a novel by Mark Twain, which was first published in 1881 in Canada, a year before its American debut. Set in 1547 it tells the story of two English boys, a pauper named Tom who lived with an abusive father and Prince Edward, son of King Henry VIII.
Through a series of plot manipulations the boys switch identities for a temporary period of time. This literary device has serious allegorical overtones and has been a standard in literature ever since.
How surprising it is that the respective historical legacies of such disparate figures, such as Niccolo Machiavelli and Saul Alinsky have come to be intertwined in an intergenerational relationship that has had lasting consequences for American society.
Just look what their acolytes in the Democratic Party have done to the United States in the person of Barack Obama and the still potentially dangerous Hillary Clinton.
Machiavelli was born in 1469. According to historian Jacques Barzun, even his name evokes visions of fiendish conduct. It has evolved to mean a cynical approach to government. This disdain revolves around his seminal work, The Prince, written in 1513.
16th century Florence was the cultural hub of the Italian peninsula. Yet Italy was a miasma of violence-ridden principalities where the people lived in constant fear and trembling. Assassinations, murders, and pillaging were daily occurrences. Machiavelli thought it was time for a new prince, who would establish peace and order.
Machiavelli was disturbed because most people lived according to the immorality of the day, even though they espoused Christian principles. He believed that since the Italians of his day were morally weak, cowards, or poor, traditional rules had to be altered.
According to Arthur Hippler, writing in the Wanderer, Machiavelli was the first Western thinker to promote the idea that moral evil is necessary for political good or as we paraphrase it the ends justify the means!
It has been almost five centuries since Machiavelli’s death in 1527. According to Barzun, Machiavelli’s legacy has lived on in the minds and hearts of scholars and deep thinkers, such as John Adams, philosophers, Charles Montesquieu, and David Hume, as well as Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky. They all believed that the state should be neutral on moral issues.
It is obvious that his spirit has deeply influenced the minds of many current American leaders, who employ the same antinomian rationale that has led the Supreme Court to render its historic decisions on abortion and homosexual rights that have rent the fabric of American civilization.
Saul Alinsky main importance was that he adapted Machiavellian tactics to his own brand of social justice. He was a superb social organizer, who believed in the power of numbers. Grass roots organization and community organizers were the open door through which he hoped to accumulate power for his disciples, the legions of poor people he witnessed every day.
Like his Italian forbear, Alinsky was not a utopian visionary. He believed that the organizer should be a neutral agent, a kind of ideological agnostic, seeking no particular outcome and advancing no philosophy, other the gaining of power.
Nor did Alinsky lose any sleep over doing dark deeds for the good of the have-nots. To him ethical standards had to be elastic enough to stretch with the times.
Unlike Machiavelli Alinsky did not want power for the rich and the well-connected. His goal was to turn Machiavelli on his head and usurp power for the poor and the downtrodden, thus upending the historical way that life had worked.
But Alinsky was not a doctrinaire cultural Marxist. He was more concerned with strategy. In his books Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals he created an amalgamation of ideas and plans adapted from the dusty pages of Marxist, Socialist, anarchist even Fascist texts.
In essence his thinking mirrored that of the Philosophes of the French Revolution in their deep abiding contempt for Christianity, the business world, private property, and the traditional American political process.
It is not surprising that Tom Paine, the voice of the revolution, was one of his heroes. He had no tolerance for compromise.
One of his early converts from the middle class was a former Goldwater Republican from Park Ridge Illinois. Alinsky saw great promise in the bespectacled college student from Wellesley College, Hillary Rodham.
The future Mrs. Clinton thought enough of Alinsky to write her senior thesis on his ideas and strategies, after working for him one summer. Unfortunately, the voting public will never know what she wrote.
According to the book, Hell to Pay, by Barbara Olson, a passenger on American Flight #77 that was crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11, as soon as Bill Clinton became president, Hillary’s thesis was put under lock and key at Wellesley.
In her 2003 best seller, Living History, Senator Clinton briefly acknowledges her intellectual debt to Alinsky. She took great pains to point out that she disagreed with his idea that one had to work from outside the establishment. Clinton prides herself on working from within an organization to reform it.
Alinsky has had no better acolyte than Barack Obama, who from his perch in the White House has put himself above all rules of law, moral and judicial. His tenure has worked to instill Alinsky’s Rules and Principles in health care, gun control, education and religion.
A former Alinsky community organizer, Obama has instituted a Marxist plan, the work of two Columbia University professors from the 1960s, the infamous Cloward-Piven Strategy whose intent is to purposely collapse the U.S. economy with huge deficits, an uncontrollable nation debt and a welfare system bursting with millions of new recipients, immigrants and mentally ill homeless people, essentially turning the United States into a Pauper Nation, at the mercy of its creditors and foreign enemies.
According to philosopher, Leo Strauss’ classic, Thoughts on Machiavelli, the Florentine was essentially a teacher of evil. This epithet should also apply to Alinsky. All Americans should be aware of what these teachers of evil taught and to whom they taught it.
This should surprise no one since Machiavelli was and atheist and Alinsky praised the first known radical, who rebelled against the establishment and did so effectively that he at least won his own kingdom. Who was the first radical? Why Lucifer himself!
While Clint Eastwood’s stark movie, Flags of our Fathers, portrayal of the deadly battle for Iwo Jima in World War II was virtually ignored by his Hollywood peers in 2007, it had a strong impact on the general public who revered the heroism that his portrayal of American troops displayed.
Despite its violence, the main thrust of Flags was the home-front struggles of the three survivors in dealing with the instant fame their heroic act brought. Drafted as spokesmen for war bond sales, they quickly adopted the creditable tag line that the real heroes of Iwo were those men who died there.
Based on the book of the same name Flags of our Fathers sparked many a debate on the meaning of hero.
In 1950 my father took me to see John Wayne in The Sands of Iwo Jima. Even at age seven, though I found war movies exciting, my concept of hero was reserved more for the baseball diamond than any tale of sanguinary combat.
The Brooklyn Dodgers were the darling underdogs of the 1950s. While they won a number of pennants (5) they always lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series — except in 1955.
While all the Dodgers were heroes that year, to my adolescent mind, the quiet Kentuckian at shortstop, Pee Wee Reese represented to me everything a hero should be.
He was the team’s leader, and he played the game with the same grace and dignity that my contemporaries in St. Louis must have seen in Stan The Man Musial. (He did not destroy my childhood ideals when I interviewed him in home late one July night in 1972.)
When Reese was inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown in 1984, I was there to honor him.
A number of years ago during an All Saints’ Day Mass the celebrant priest labored unsuccessfully for a proper analogy to underscore the Holy Day. During the course of his painful musings it dawned on me that when the Church canonizes a saint, it could be viewed as the Catholic equivalent of putting a baseball player in the Hall of Fame.
It was St. Paul who first recognized that faithful Christians could easily be analogized as athletes who had fought the good fight and finished the good race. An English professor at Holy Cross had used those same parallels during my freshman orientation in 1961.
In effect Catholic saints are our spiritual and moral athletes, who have successfully fought the good fight and run the good race. The Church was recognizing that they had played the game of life with the practiced skills of faith, hope and charity.
Their lives still serve as constant reminders that if we only have the athletic discipline of daily sacrifice and loving charity, we will someday break the ribbon of victory in eternity. Many saints also showed a kind of dangerous courage possessed by many athletes to stare death and evil in the face, ultimately paying the full price for their faith in God.
What Yogi Berra, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Mickey Mantle and Musial are to baseball fans, Sts. Joseph, Peter, John Paul II, Theresa, Catherine and Anthony are to Catholics. They are our heroes for all seasons.
After the passage of the Fetal Tissue Use Amendment, I learned that a friend had resigned his position with a prestigious law firm because it had represented one of the principal supporters of the pro-cloning amendment.
I was inspired by his heroic stand in a social atmosphere where apathy is the everyday choice of too many Catholics.
To the point of our mutual embarrassment, I told him he was my new hero.
Had he been familiar with Flags, I suspect, like the survivors of Iwo, he would have said the real heroes of the faith were those who had died for it.
Nonetheless, his principled stand on a culture war battlefield is morally as significant as that tiny volcanic island in the Pacific.
While most of us may never be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice, all of us have to suffer these daily small deaths to ourselves to prepare for, if not the Hall of Fame in the sky, at least for a seat in the stands.
I don’t know how many people are aware of it but atheism — make that militant atheism — has been on the rise in the United States for years. Perhaps it was all the years of the religious right and the strident battles over abortion and the separation of church and state. Whatever the case, they are angry and they are on the march. They have shelved their public indifference and are confident that God and His faithful are in certain retreat.
Like their forebears from the French Revolution, they see the Church as an institution founded on unreason and superstition. It is their mission to chase such foolish ideas from the public marketplace. Since nature abhors a vacuum, they have found their god in science and a religion of man. Or what the intellectuals calls secular humanism.
While Charles Darwin was not an atheist, his theory of evolution later became the adopted intellectual child of atheists around the globe. The leading Darwinian atheist is Richard Dawkins, author of the 2006 bestseller, The God Delusion. Another godless priest is Sam Harris. In his 2004 book, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Religion, Harris takes more of an apocalyptic approach. He believes that people must renounce religious faith or it will mark the end of civilization, conveniently ignoring the destruction of more than 175 million people at the bloody hands of atheistic governments during the 20th century.
However the debate has not been the same since the priesthood of unbelief lost its presumptive leader in 2014. For much of his adult life, Christopher Hitchens, the author of What’s So Good about God? waged a take-no-prisoners war on faith and its believers. His energy and quick wit knew no boundaries nor took any prisoners. He was probably the only man in history who had the temerity to publicly lambaste Mother Theresa.
I have had very little personal experience with atheism or atheists. When I had a weekly radio program on WGNU in St. Louis, one of my most frequent and memorable callers was a man who sometimes used the handles Gunboy Jim or Jim from Ferguson, Jim was very bright, more of a library autodidact philosopher who proudly proclaimed his atheism.
He was also ardently pro-abortion. For obvious reasons the two often walk hand in hand. He would come up with the most creative arguments that justified in his mind a woman’s right to choose to kill her unborn child.
One time in the late1980s in an off-air phone conversation he said that abortion was a noble act. So great was my visceral reaction that I could not restrain my contempt for him and his ideas. Despite my rage, Jim continued to call and challenge me.
In doing so he made me a much better talk show host. I eventually put away my anger and tried to understand him and his atheism. I realized that he was my neighbor and he needed something more than my righteous indignation.
One time in an e-mail he casually mentioned how he had been doing the dishes and the housework for his mother who was been seriously ill. I told him in a near apologetic tone that what he was doing was the work of sainthood. I was taken aback when he thanked me for seeing some good in him. I told Jim I would pray for him. He continued to call and write me. Jim was a seeker who wanted to know and understand the reality of life but had been looking in all the wrong places.
While he still occasionally writes long missives to my blog, the pretentious, Gospel Truth, I often wonder if he ever filled the void or spiritual vacuum in his life that the absence of God leaves. I continue to pray that he find that inner peace or what Bishop Fulton J. Sheen called peace of soul. It is something we all strive for whether we know it or not. The same is true for all the militant atheists in this country. Like my friend Jim they also need our kind thoughts and prayers.
When I first came to St. Louis years ago, KMOX radio had a series of zany commercials with the late baseball broadcaster Jack Buck and a local appliance dealer, Steve Mizerany that was one of the most clever I had ever encountered.
Mizerany was totally unscripted but with Buck as his Virgil, he always wandered into the bizarre recesses of his ephemeral mind and would say the funniest things in a serious tone.
Mizerany’s ending tagline was always the oxymoron, Don’t be confused!
Confusion is a word that rules the sexual mores of American society today! The Sexual Revolution that took its lurid form in the early sixties has morphed into something even more unrecognizable!
To paraphrase Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky in his Brothers Kamerozov, when no one believes in God, anything goes.
Life was so much simpler for young people when I was a prepubescent boy. There were girls and there were boys. No one suffered from the Mizerany conundrum.
It has taken nearly 200 years but the Philosophes of the French Revolution have landed on the beaches of sexual identity politics.
Then came Simone de Beauvoir and her introspective book, The Second Sex and all of a sudden women were wondering what it meant to be a woman.
Serious doubts waded ashore and with the slow decline of religious faith, one of the trident pillars of Western Civilization the Jacobins had targeted after the Bastille, resistance weakened and then collapsed.
With the breakup of millions two-parent households, boys were raised mostly by women who feminized two generations of boys, just increasing their doubts about their sexuality.
Homosexuals could not wait to get ahold of them. A headline in one of their newspapers in the seventies read if no sex by eight, too late!
In effect men had been deconstructed and had their sexuality reduced to feelings and inner uncertainty.
Deconstruction is a philosophical movement, inspired by the homosexual Michel Foucault and Marxist Jacques Derrida. This modern movement is joined at the hip of conspiracy.
Deconstruction is the theory of literary criticism that questions traditional assumptions about certainty, identity, and truth. It asserts that words can only refer to other words; and attempts to demonstrate how statements about any text subvert their own meanings.
In early August the New York Times published an article by Jessica Bennett, entitled Man Deconstructed. She could have easily left out the “con.” It focused on an upstate SUNY college professor, Michael Kimmel who contrasted the difference between real men and good men.
Why does there have to be a difference?
Professor Kimmel wanted his male students to question what made them a man. He specializes in a new study, called Masculinities.
It seems to be the polar opposite of Gloria Steinem’s idea of Women Studies, which had emphasized that a woman needed a man like a fish needed a bicycle.
The real culprit in this miasma of sexual confusion and philosophical musings predates Freud, Marx and even Rousseau.
Sexual confusion traces its intellectual lineage back to the Nominalism of Franciscan scholar, William of Ockham. He is more recognizable as the progenitor of the eponymous Ockham’s Razor, which held that the simplest solution was usually the correct one.
Ockham also had flirtation with literary notoriety, appearing as the clerical sleuth in Umberto Ecco’s 1983 novel, The Name of the Rose.
Ockham also was a pioneer of Nominalism. He argued that only individuals exist, rather than any universals, essences, or forms, which are nothing more than the abstract creations of the human mind and have no place in reality.
Abraham Lincoln provides the perfect illustration of the fallacy inherent in both Nominalism and Deconstruction. He liked to ask his visitors a riddle. If one counted a cow’s tail as a leg, how many legs would it have?
The correct answer was “four!” Just because one calls something, something else does not make it so!
The hidden truth beneath the riddle is that man does not have the Edenic power to rename or change the essence of things just because he thinks or wills it.
Nearly 2000 years of cultural history was under assault, not on the beaches but in the beds and classrooms of America. As the feminist tobacco icon Virginia Slims used to bellow, you’ve come a long way baby! Downhill!
A pregnant woman can’t say it’s a baby if she wants it and a glob of tissue if she doesn’t! Similarly homosexuals cannot arbitrarily change the nature of traditional marriage without making it something else
To illustrate just how far sexual confusion has come, the eleven-year old daughter of a domestic employee was one of the 150 students who skipped classes at the Hillsboro schools, a community 40 miles south of St. Louis, to protest a transgendered senior, Lila Perry’s desire to use the girl’s restrooms and locker facilities.
Perry was living as a gay teen until this past February, when he came out as transgendered. He started wearing dresses and a wig but to date has not had undergone gender reassignment surgery nor has he undergone hormone therapy.
The fact that her new name Lila literally means popular just might have something to do with “her” prominence in the public eye.
To further confuse the issue of his sex, the media accounts state that Perry was designated a boy at birth as if it had been done pure by a random selection. On another day he might have been designated a female chimpanzee to carry this irrational account to its absurd conclusion.
Parents have brought the issue before the local school board and have called for a new policy. They should have the ability to do whatever they need to do in the privacy of the bathroom without having a male in there.
Another parent stated that the girls have rights, and they shouldn’t have to share a bathroom with a boy, adding that it’s unfair for Perry to get special accommodations while the girls just have to suck it up.
All we have to rely on is his statement that he feels like a girl. When I was Perry’s age, if a boy woke up one morning and thought he was Mona Lisa or the Queen of Sheba he would have been taken for mental health evaluation.
In fact I knew many a lad who if he thought he could get a peak at a room full of naked girls he would have used a similar approach!
It is not surprising that the government has intervened to protect the false right of Mr. Perry. The Office of Civil Rights has issued an official opinion that says, if you do this, (stop Perry) you have engaged in gender discrimination!
Perry’s personal battle with traditional morality will go on but in the interim the innocence and modesty of young girls today is threatened and confused by sexual outliers like this troubled adolescent.
While people like Perry should be treated with compassion, just because he thinks he is something other than what nature made him, it does not mean that the majority’s natural rights should be trampled as they were with abortion and homosexual unions.
This is another battle of the culture wars because feminists have believed for generations that men and women are perfectly equal, sexually, morally and occupational.
In a word they are fungible…that is perfectly interchangeable.
This is one of the great lies of the culture war.
Men and women are not equal. They are different and will always be different! Communist China in the sixties had everyone man and woman wear identical clothing, which is the drab look of an enslaved people. That did not make them the same. It only covered up their sexual distinctions in a standard progressive attempt to coerce uniformity and change our basic nature.
This argument goes back to the French revolution and Jean Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Paine who wanted to make the world anew.
That was a misnomer. What they wanted to do was transform the way people were and how they lived their lives. Barack Obama is as much a Rousseau disciple as he was Saul Alinsky’s.
Now thousands of poor souls march to the beat of this Marxist drummer. They challenge the traditional gender binary of American life with a coercive force that they hope will silence the voices of reason one at a time.
As they weave their Satanic web, the disciples of Foucault and Derrida are changing the language with dozens of confusing definition of politically incorrect speech on the innate difference between men and women.
Neologisms such an Gender Niji and genderflux pollute deconstruct the language we need for communication.
The result is a leaderless nation where men have forfeited their traditional role as leaders, providers and home defenders. A country without Real Good Men can not survive indefinitely.
I had a wonderful English teacher my last year of a Catholic prep school in New York City. Father John Jones was a scholarly Jesuit who instructed me in the fine art of the metaphor.
Thanks to him I wrote a paper on Macbeth that was surfeited with blood-curdling images of daggers dripping all sorts of gore. Little did I realize that Xavier High School, the alma mater of Justice Antonin, Scalia, would provide my life with an apt metaphor that continues to inspire me.
Since Xavier was still a military school in 1958, we had to march in a parade every First Friday of the month from the school to the church down the block. That February our bored algebra teacher, a Jesuit scholastic, gave back the results of our rhythm test.
Since we met seven times a week, he dedicated a two classes to a subject he really enjoyed — music. I had scored the lowest grade in the class and he proceeded to make sport of me just before our march.
During the ensuing parade, I tried unsuccessfully to overcome my rhythm deficiency by anticipating the beat of the drum. The few spectators lining 16th Street in Manhattan were treated to two parades that afternoon — that of the Xavier regiment and that of my inner drummer.
My inability to keep in step with the official drummer has become a dominant metaphor in my intellectual life. While my thinking was in step with the culture 50 years ago, the cultural drumbeat has changed dramatically.
The official drummer now bangs a beat that has taken the country’s moral parade drastically to the left with abortion, euthanasia, homosexual marriage, moral relativism and socialism.
Today I am as out of step with the cultural rhythms of our times as I was with our drummer that chilly Friday afternoon 58 years ago, and happily so.
The predominant factor in this new beat is a culture that has loosened its moorings from the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Our cultural icons are more representative of a culture that does not recognize God or holds any interest in Christian morality.
They effectively employ a peer pressure that is as important to adults as it is to high school or college students. It is what Newsweek once called the conventional wisdom, which is designed to determine, not only what we think, but how we think.
History, Voltaire wrote, is a pack of lies agreed upon. His enlightened cynicism clearly identifies our status quo. Today the general will tends to filter down from the image shapers, spin doctors and pollsters. As if in a huge Skinner Box, the American people are being subtlety conditioned to accept a distorted standard of belief that bears little resemblance to any objective reality.
Mainstream opinion shapers have composed a cultural rhythm for all Americans to march to. Each new note, whether on abortion rights, same-sex “marriage” or “man-made global warming,” is designed to further enhance the powers that tenaciously control the American consciousness.
The country’s custodians of truth are reminiscent of the baseball players in Mark Harris’ screenplay, Bang the Drum Slowly. They engaged in a card game called Tegwar, which was an acronym for the exciting game without any rules. The players simply made up their rules as the game progressed.
Of course the card game was a scam, designed to separate the adoring fans, who wanted to rub elbows with their baseball idols, from their money. America’s conventional wisdom is akin to Tegwar because it ignores the basic rules of civilization — namely, logic, morality, and truthfulness.
Truth for the conventionally wise Tegwar player is only what is useful. Objective standards and absolute and immutable moral principles have no place in their utilitarian wisdom.
Modern Tegwar players — in politics, government, business, law and even some clergy — change the rules to ideologically fit the situation. In a word they slowly bang a cultural drum that will eventually lead the American parade over a cliff of despair. Catholics and all Americans must skip their beat and march to that of their own inner drummer.
One of my fondest memories from my college days at Holy Cross was the annual spring intramurals. While there were a variety of events, the tug-of-war had the greatest impact on my memory. The contest pitted the most brawny and surliest behemoths of each class against each other in an exhausting display of sinewy prowess.
Another kind of tug-of-war surfaced a year after my 1965 graduation. While teaching a religion class at St. Henry’s High School in Charleston, Mo., I used the book The Gospel According to Peanuts as one of my textbooks. In one of the illustrations, poor Charlie Brown bemoaned the moral tug-of-war that was raging inside his heart.
I believe that Charles Schulz, the late cartoonist, had used his hapless character to express a deep point of Christian theology. Charlie Brown’s conscience was caught in the invisible vice between the things he wanted do and the things he should do. Schulz successfully underscored the never-ending tension that is a universal quality of our divided human nature.
Like Charlie Brown, our moral struggle forces us to focus on the disparity between what we should be and what we really are.
Instead of the brawny linebackers, tackles, and guards in college, this moral tug-of-war pits the world, the flesh and the devil on one side and Jesus, Mary and Joseph on the other.
However, this eternal contest is not a simple black-and-white struggle. While the presumption of victory is always on the side of the Holy Family, there is a grave warning implicit for people who follow Church teachings, devotions and pietistic rituals in the course of this struggle.
A tug-of-war can take a long time, and there are definite strategies that are not apparent to the unschooled eye. In one such strategy the secular team eases up, ever so lightly on the rope, so that complacency, self-satisfaction or pride catches the religious team off-guard.
Mother Teresa is a good example of this. As a young nun bursting with love and enthusiasm for the Lord, she prayed that God would let her share in Christ’s suffering so that she could be one with Him.
God heeded her fervent wishes but instead of the physical pains of Calvary He sent her the most agonizing mental struggles of Gethsemane that brought her to the brink of despair. God was not being cruel but recognized that His eager servant could be susceptible to the righteous pride of an enthusiast. Father Brian Kolodiejchuk’s 2007 book, Come Be My Light poignantly captured her soul-rendering tug-of-war.
The best way to soften the direct impact of our personal inner tug-of-war is to regard this struggle as one of the crosses we have to bear daily. We can accomplish this by walking the narrow vertical path between the lateral temptations of a secular world and the proud seductions of the interior life.
Both can be devastating to the unsuspecting soul. This salvific route forms a simple cross (+), a symbol of God’s love for us. We should also see this as a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate saving power of the Christian sign of contradiction to the world. With Christ as our helmsman how can any of us fail to navigate the rocky shoals of these worldly and spiritual temptations?
Octogenarian Harper Lee has unleashed a maelstrom of social unrest and intellectual confusion as contentious as the turmoil in the streets of Ferguson with the 55-year delayed release of her “first” book, Go Set a Watchman.
As a work of literature it stands in start contrast to her “second” book, To Kill a Mockingbird, released in 1962. The one is for serious adults while the second is for children. The first is to the second as Shakespeare is to Mary Poppins.
This should not be surprising to her readers. The narrator of To Kill…is Scout a precocious seven or eight year old. She sees things through the eyes of a child, idolizing her dad who was her knight in shinning armor, perfect in every way. His brave defense of accused rapist, the one-armed Negro Tom Robinson, amidst the abject hatred of his fellow citizens in Maycomb, Alabama in the 1930s makes him even more of a hero in her eyes.
To Set…is written in the third person though both Atticus and his brother Dr. Jack Finch serves as the voices of adult reason throughout the last half of the book.
Millions of adolescents and many adults have had the same iconic reverence for Atticus Finch ever since.
That’s why Go Tell… has set off such a furor. It was if in the darkest corners of her soul Ms. Lee and her publisher had conspired to undo 50 years of liberal pride and energy.
Her latest publication depicts Atticus, now disabled and in his early seventies as the avatar of racism and white supremacy. Virtually all the early book reviews mischaracterize him as a racist with an hypocritical heart.
To Set…is arguably the best book I have read in a very long time for its social and historical awareness. It gives clarity and voice to a large portion of this country that has been maligned for over a 100 years.
No Ms. Lee does not defend racial bigotry–a much more accurate and honest term than its bastard cousin, the politically charged racism. It explained how people could hold such prejudicial views in the context of their historical, social and cultural environs.
Their very use of the word racism, which did not exist until 1933, is an affront, analogous to a loaded gun pointed at the heat of a reasonable discussion. It signals that there is not other side of this issue that can even be mentioned in civilized company.
Racism is a potent weapon of self-righteous indignation that the American left has used for generations to silence debate and eliminate any criticism of their twisted social and racial policies.
To Set…is a broadside across their bow of their pride that hopefully will open up a fair and honest discussion of these issues without rancor or violence.
To Set…is a perfect title for what transpires in the book. She selected it from Isaiah 21:6. In whole it reads: Go Set a Watchman and listen to what he saith. As Atticus’ brother Dr. Jack Finch tells his niece Jean Louise (Scout’s adult name) that verse means to listen to your conscience or moral compass.
Scout’s conscience had been formed first by the Socratic education and aura of intellectual freedom that Atticus promoted at home. Her formative years as a young adult in New York City, the den of liberal change and moral reform completed her compass.
By contrast, Atticus’ Watchman comes from a legal background that was wedded to the moral virtues, not so much the American Revolution but the United States Constitution and its Bill of Rights.
During one of their introspective and heated discussions they unveiled the keys to understanding Southern history as we plod into the 21st century in virtual blindness and ignorance of our past history and deep meaning.
Atticus underscores the “recent” the 1954 Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education, Topeka Kansas. This seminal decision legally sought to eliminate centuries of segregation in the South, starting with our schools.
This landmark decision was the proper moral but unfortunately it violated the Bill of Rights, which made it a bad precedent and an unwise decision.
The 10th Amendment, which nobody teaches or understands today, except maybe Bob Dole who carried an index card of it in his pocket for years, is also known as the Reserved Powers amendment.
It stated that any power not specifically delegated to the Federal Government was reserved for the states. Education was the most important of these powers and the Federal government had now taken it upon itself to tell all children to think like it does.
While segregation is blatantly immoral, the proper way to have changed it was through the amendment process. But that takes time and big government likes swift action when it comes to absorbing more power and control.
Another point of note is the tremendous pride Southerners have. They witnessed their entire civilization swept from the board of history during four years of bloody war and 12 years of “Deconstruction” that made them second-class citizens in their own states. And worse was that the North forced their social acceptance of their former slaves on them in such a self-righteous way that their only natural reaction was hatred and eventually violence.
Then the Northern Republicans sacrificed three million blacks on the altar of political expediency, leaving the bewildered, uneducated blacks at the less than tender mercies of the Klan and other hostile bigots.
For several generations after that the Northern Republicans waved the bloody shirt of rebellion, blaming the South for the war and all of its collateral damage. Now the heirs of these “radical Republicans” were waving the bloody chains of slavery in their faces.
Their natural reaction then as it had been after the Civil War was to fight back.
Brown was like a second Reconstruction and Atticus was, not the problem, but tried to be part of a solution— the soft landing of his community and maybe even the whole South in gradually accepting the demise of his cultural heritage and the nation changed.
What Atticus resented most was not that the simple black people he had lived with all of his life had suddenly erected barriers of emotional isolation to the white citizens of Maycomb, as his daughter painfully experiences but the modern carpetbaggers from the North–the NAACP and its horde of eager lawyers, who were ready to force immediate and radical change on a people who spent their lives in languor and slow-moving.
To his credit Atticus decried the violently bigotry of the Klan and other racial groups because he understood only too well what had made them that way.
He was never a racist! He was in fact more than a simply hero! He was a peacemaker. But he was also a legal and social realist, who recognized as Abraham Lincoln had in his own time that blacks were not his intellectual, social or even cultural equals.
His daughter was blind to this because as her Uncle Jack tells her, she lacked an understanding heart. She failed to see her dad’s basic humanity> Because of her idealism she could never think of her father as a person of flesh and blood.
She had blindly judged him and her state by a presentism that failed to see mitigating…not exculpatory circumstances that underscored the truth of a time and culture. Her own conscience had been tainted by the self-righteous promotion of the progressive ideas that emanated from the guillotine and mobs of Paris in the late 18th century.
Her conscience had failed her while Atticus’ made him a three-dimensional human being, unlike the cardboard icon in her childhood. Her father was not perfect. He was flawed as some of his principles were. But his adherence to his conscience and his ability to admit that all were equal before the law made him unique for his community and his times.
Thomas Paine, one of the forbears of the French Revolution, marched to the battle cry of To Make the World Anew. What Paine meant was to make human beings anew…that is without flaw, prejudice or humanity. That is the impossible liberal dream that has failed in Russia, China, Cuba and wherever man’s free will has been coerced into submission.
Unfortunately too many of the movers and shakers of our liberal society are blind watchmen such as Jean Louise. Just look at Ferguson and all the other similar communities around the nation.
Harper Lee has written a prescient book that is one for the ages. It speaks to all of us whose consciences have been blinded by bigotry, hatred, ideology and selfishness.
One of the great stories of my childhood was Washington Irving’s 1809 tale of the legendary “Rip Van Winkle,” the man who fell asleep for 20 years, only to awaken to a new world he scarcely recognized. I must have been asleep at the cultural wheel on Jan. 22, 1973 because the infamous Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, which has accounted for the premature death of more than 55 million unborn children, flew right under my radar.
My first reckoning of the slaughter of the innocents did not occur until 12 years after that infamous decision. At a parish social after the 11 o’clock Mass, I noticed a tiny lapel pin on a friend’s jacket. When asked, he told me that his pin represented fully developed fetal feet at just 10 weeks of gestation. At that moment I saw no lightening bolts from the sky nor did I have anything as dramatic as a Pauline dismount. There was just this quiet moment of clarity that opened my eyes to the true meaning of abortion on demand.
I started reading everything I could on the subject. I got involved with the Archdiocesan Respect Life Movement in a myriad of different positions, including three stints as our parish co-coordinator. I wrote several letters to the editor. Some were published.
A short time later, I became a weekly radio talk show host. For 20 years I verbally waged the culture war on air with abortion my salient issue. The publication of my 1999 book, “Liberalism: Fatal Consequences” with abortion as its linchpin followed. In 2008 I wrote a one-act play about abortion, “A Perfect Choice,” which was produced the next year on a local stage. I have also been an advisor to the Vitae Foundation and a board member of Birthright of St. Louis for a dozen years. All this happened to me just because I asked about those tiny fetal feet.
The hardest part of this battle for me has been trying to understand why all Catholics are not equally troubled by the abortion horror as I am. Perhaps the slavery issue may answer my question. The record of Catholics during the days of slavery is not a stellar one. Most Catholics, especially those in the South, were indifferent to the plight of the slave, just as most are indifferent toward abortion today. Like their antebellum forebears, too many Catholics blame abortion abolitionists for disturbing the peaceful order of their society.
Perhaps it was the conservative temperament of most Catholics then not to rock the cultural boat since reforming the earth was unimportant when compared with spending eternity with God. Of course that kind of thinking would be totally unacceptable today on issues as diverse as racism, the minimum wage, nuclear war, the death penalty and even global warming.
I think the real trouble resides in the fact that Catholics today do not fear the establishment as much as they did in the 19th century because we have become an intricate part of the power establishment. Catholic attitudes today spring more from the toxic fumes of an anti-religious secularism then they do from Church teachings on human life.
Most of our Catholic senators and congressmen follow their political consciences instead of their moral consciences. Many go out of their way to embed and expand the abortion privilege instead of screaming in outrage for its speedy repeal. In effect Karl and now Saul are more important than Jesus.
A repeal or even a Constitutional amendment seem like pipe dreams. We have tried the courts, constitutional amendments, political persuasion and public debate for 42 years, and the left, supported by millions of federal dollars keeps up the assault on innocent life with a determined consistency that defies all the Christian virtues.
Granted prayer, sacrifice and the public witness of millions have saved many unborn lives. But abortion is still an intricate part of the social landscape. Only a loud public outrage can make a difference. It is not there because Catholics are not united enough to lead that outrage.
My personal prayer is that every Catholic will think about those tiny fetal feet, feel their power and be moved to do something as I was years ago. If that ever happens, abortion may disappear from this country just as slavery did 150 years ago.
I wanted to be English major in college until an adjunct History professor at Holy Cross enthralled me with his military exploits as a Marine tank commander in the Pacific Theater during World War II and Korea. His personal experiences within the broad context of Asian History, presented such a broad spectrum of heroes, philosophy, and human conflict that I spent the next nine years studying the discipline, collecting a pair of graduate degrees along the way.
Historical facts came easy in grad school. It was the different interpretations that made history difficult. Most historians were so awash in a sea of relativity that it made the past nearly unintelligible. Some stressed history as a study of heroic figures. Others saw it as materialistic determinism.
My personal definition focused on history as the story of man’s human nature in time. While its pages portrayed people in different milieus, there always was one essential constant. Man’s human nature never changed. It was likened to the philosopher Heraclitus’ flowing river, which was always changing while remaining the same river. Each historical era does things a bit differently but its people still maintain their inborn attraction to evil.
This explains why that in thousands of years of recorded history, only 22 years have been free of war, according to the late Bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Violence is and always will be an essential part of human nature. While no one is born rotten to the core, as the Calvinists would have us believe, man has never been the “angel” the French Philosophes, purported him to be.
The French reign of terror with its menacing guillotine disproves that idea during the last decade of the 18th century abrogated that idea. Men are more like what late historian Michael Shara called “killer angels,” capable of great love and charity but with a stark propensity for war and destruction.
Since the French Revolution, philosophers have attacked the Church’s teaching on man’s human nature with regard to sin. Its philosophical heirs, Marx, Darwin, and Freud denied the entire concept of original sin. A behavioral license to act without consequence has become their universal standard by which belief, morality and personal conduct is to be judged. It is this inherent philosophical conflict of the “City of God” versus the “City of Man” that is at the epicenter of the “culture war.”
Pope Benedict’s statement on Limbo and the “hope for unbaptized babies” has clouded the debate even further. It prompted the late University of Notre Dame Theology professor, Fr. Richard McBrien to opine, “if there is no limbo…it has to follow that “everyone is born in the state of grace.”
This reasoning leads to only one logical conclusion that baptism does not wash away the “stain,” of original sin and Christ’s death and Resurrection were unnecessary. Father McBrien’s interpretation marches in lockstep with the progressive fallout from the French Revolution, which has assumed an Immaculate Conception, which they ironically deny for the Blessed Mother, for every other human being who ever lived.
Progressives explain away the lingering question of evil with the same twisted logic of comedian Flip Wilson’s female character “Geraldine,” whose illicit behavior always prompted the response, “the devil made me do it!” This thinking is akin that of an ex-professional basketball player when arrested for drug possession said: “drugs ruined my life,” making made him the unwitting victim of his own sins.
What the left fails to understand is that we are all tarnished angels who have an inner yearning to revolt against the moral integrity of our being. Catholic convert G. K. Chesterton once opined that original sin was the one Catholic doctrine that never needed any proof. All one had to do “was read a newspaper…”or he might have added… a history book.