May 09, 2013
Leadership by Deception—the Path to the New Totalitarianism
Recently the state of Rhode Island joined the ranks of those jurisdictions providing for the recognition of same-sex marriage. Within the U.S., Rhode Island makes the tenth state which recognizes the redefinition of marriage. Other jurisdictions, perhaps Delaware, will soon follow in this move that, superficially, is based on the false arguments of justice by ensuring equality for all. I, along with others, have addressed the equality issue in the past from a variety of perspectives. Some of us have incorporated into our arguments the “what” and the “why” of the Church’s teachings on the nature of marriage, while others have chosen a different course. As this weblog is dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory, we need to be aware that there are standards promulgated by the Church, which include the writings of Blessed John Paul II and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, instructing Catholics who hold public office on how they are to conduct the efforts made in the execution of their offices which impact public policy and the law. These texts also offer guidance to other people of good will regarding what should be done and what should be avoided in the execution of the responsibilities as public officials and servants of the common good. The Church’s instructions and guidance are not just the doctrine of the Church applicable to Catholics; they also constitute wise counsel for the better governance of societies that are presumably geared to pursuing the common good. This counsel is particularly applicable to democratic institutions of governance, but even democracies, when the compromise their values, becoming thinly disguised totalitarianisms, as Blessed John Paul II noted some years ago. The evidence is building that on a number of fronts our democratic institutions of the West, particularly those of the United States, are being transformed into thinly disguised totalitarian states.
Last week The New York Times [HERE] published an op-ed contribution of Governor Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island. The opinion piece was entitled “Why I am Signing Marriage Equality into Law” and presented the Governor’s case for the dramatic change in the redefinition of marriage in Little Rhody a jurisdiction of great fondness to me since, amongst other reasons, it was the last jurisdiction in which I practiced law before entering the Society of Jesus. However, this fondness has been challenged by the Governor’s recent advocacy piece heralding Rhode Island’s move to join those other jurisdictions which recognize same-sex marriage. I realize that the Governor and I do not share views on some of the important issues of the day: he is pro-abortion, and I am not; he is in favor of the use of embryonic stem cells, and I am not; and he holds a very different view about church-state relations from mine. And now, he and I see the meaning and nature of marriage from the antipodes. Allow me to elaborate upon the deceptive statements advanced by the Governor which were used to justify his advocacy for same-sex marriage and which will have a widespread impact on movement of this political juggernaut around the country and the world. (Deception had often been a crucial tool for totalitarian systems to convince the public that what the state is doing is both right and smart, but in fact is neither.)
The Governor first of all advances an interesting take on the primacy of equality and “equality’s” justification for same-sex marriage. I have addressed the equality argument on these pages in the past, most recently HERE. While the Governor states that the legislation institutionalizing same-sex marriage “will be gratifying for many reasons,” the first reason he notes is that it will instantiate “full marriage equality.” He does not explain what he means by “equal” and “equality”; neither does he assert that anyone, be he or she heterosexual or homosexual, is treated equally before the law regarding the traditional requirements for marriage, which is not a private matter or contract as the Governor suggests but is, in fact, a public institution which bears on the common good of society. As I have previously argued on many occasions including the Mirror of Justice, regardless of one’s sexual orientation, everyone is treated the same under the marriage laws which define the institution as an exclusive union of one man and one woman—a position with which the Church’s teachings agree and impart. It would have been helpful for the Governor to explain why same-sex couples—or any other group for that matter—are denied “equality” under the traditional definition of marriage, but perhaps he agreed with then Chief Justice Margaret Marshall of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts who, in November of 2003, realized that the definition of marriage had to be radically altered to satisfy the political juggernaut behind the recognition of same-sex unions; thus, she redefined it on the basis of this “vital social institution” as being based on the “exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other” so that “mutual love and mutual support” can be nurtured and bring “stability to our society.” She further offered a new definition of marriage by “using the rubric of due process” to redefine this important public institution not with reasoned argument but with the pen of a political theorist. But here we need to take account of the fact that her redefinition was based on pretext rather than objective reality that is comprehendible to objective human intelligence. The Governor has made the same mistake as Margaret Marshall, C.J.
Another reason presented by the Governor in defense of his action is that the redefinition of marriage is “the right thing to do.” The basis of the justification for this argument is the coincidence of a hoped-for economic recovery for Rhode Island which has been an “outlier” but must now be an active participant in economic recovery. He argues that Rhode Island is surrounded by states which have incorporated same-sex marriage recognition into their laws. While it is suggested that these jurisdictions (e.g., New York, Massachusetts, and Maine) have made solid economic recoveries, he does not present data supporting the contention. In the words of Cuba Gooding, Jr., in the film “Jerry Maguire,” show me the money! The Governor does not; he merely relies on unsubstantiated theory. Still, he does not want Rhode Island to be left out of the perceived economic recovery he argues will follow when Rhode Island joins the same-sex marriage movement.
A theoretical justification used by the Governor to support his decision to sign the same-sex marriage legislation into law is his reliance on the work of the urban theorist Richard Florida who contends that those urban regions which have high concentrations of technology workers, artists, and persons with same-sex attractions and practices (whom are identified as “high bohemians” and members of the “creative class”) are vital to economic development. I gather if you don’t fall into these categories identified by Professor Florida, you are not vital to economic development and recovery. Moreover, the Governor, by accepting the Florida thesis, ironically introduces a new form of class warfare into the social fabric, and class warfare or class competition is antithetical to Catholic teaching, but I digress. I hasten to point out that Professor Florida’s stance on economic development has been strongly critiqued by other academics known for rigorous standards in social science research. However, these criticisms were not acknowledged by the Governor, again perhaps because these critiques would not support his action in signing the same-sex marriage bill into law.
Perhaps the Governor tacitly recognized the problems with this aspect of the Florida thesis; consequently, he reinvents the argument of support based on the research of “many experts”, including Florida, who contend that there is “a strong correlation between tolerance and prosperity, particularly in high-tech sectors.” The Governor emphasizes the issue of tolerance, but he does not explain what tolerance means. I have explained elsewhere that in today’s political environment tolerance is frequently used as a means of eliminating opposition to the insistence that all comply with the positions asserted by the state whether the need for universal compliance is necessary or not. I contend that this is meaning of “tolerance” is used by public officials who view that moral concerns are not matters of public concern. However, in fact they are and they must be if the authentic common good is of concern. But the Governor dismisses quickly what he considers “convictions of personal morality.” He does not consider the arguments dealing with public morality. Instead, his concern is on “job creation” for Rhode Island and “tolerance” of the Florida thesis is crucial to Rhode Island’s economic recovery in his estimation. He does not pause to suggest that holding onto the wisdom of traditional morality might actually have the means of making Rhode Island an oasis that would attract the “talented” to a state which has not capitulated to the relentless force of the same-sex marriage juggernaut. Strangely the Governor reinforces his advocacy for same-sex marriage by the thin hedonistic argument that the “talented workers who are driving the new economy—young, educated and forward-looking—want to live in a place that reflects their values.” And what are these values? The Governor suggests that they are based “not simply out of a sense of justice, but because diversity makes life more fun.” While fun is important to most people, sound public policy that counters the hedonistic attitudes upon which the Governor relies is critical to good governance. Again, the words of Blessed John Paul II are instructive here: a democracy without values or the proper values is a thinly disguised totalitarianism. Has the Governor decided to join the ranks of the thinly disguised totalitarian systems of the present age? It would seem so.
Why do I suggest this? I turn to his disingenuous conclusion he offers that the current political trend is to accept the “belief in marriage as an institution” which requires “a desire to keep government out of our personal lives.” But marriage is not simply about personal lives and privacy; it is, rather, a critical public institution that necessitates sound public policy which escapes the Governor’s rationalization of what marriage is all about and why traditional marriage is important to the future of the human family. He concludes his rationalization by again relying on the false equality argument which once more escapes definition. He contends that he does not want Rhode Island to cling to “old prohibitions” which he assumes are detrimental not only to economic recovery but also to the flourishing of society. He sees these “old prohibitions” as discriminatory, but he does not examine whether the discrimination against same-sex marriage advocacy is just or unjust. This distinction of “just” versus “unjust” is also relevant to Catholic teaching and the making of sound public policy. For the Governor, marriage depends on the ability to marry the person one loves, but as I have also pointed out, this argument is insufficient. There are sound reasons why authentic equality is not unjustly interfered with when the laws prohibit persons from marrying “the person they love.” These sound reasons included age, degrees of consanguinity, and communicable disease. Strangely, the Governor’s sentiments that the new law will enable people to marry “the person they love” is untrue as the new legislation retains many of the “old prohibitions” that I just mentioned. Yet the Governor remains confident that equality will be served as the legislation will accomplish “the right thing and the smart thing” which “are one and the same.” Unfortunately for him, his action was neither. Objective intelligence comprehending the intelligible reality does not agree with the position and argument advanced by the Governor, but the political juggernaut of which he is a part still plows ahead on its non-deviating course. In the meantime the sound values which the State of Rhode Island adhered to in the past have been sacrificed to the thin values that are aligned with new totalitarian system identified by Blessed John Paul II.
May 02, 2013
Research is an enterprise not restricted to lawyers and academics, but it is a large component of what the members of these two professions do. In my life which has intersected both pursuits, I have come across texts that have fallen into the category of “unpublished manuscript.” Over the past year I have labored on two projects (one dealing with an aspect of religious liberty in China and the other dealing with lessons to be learned from past statutory making and interpretation) which will not be published. So I make these available to the readers of the Mirror of Justice HERE Download Render Unto Mao and HERE Download Statutory Making and Interpretation Lessons of 1534-5 for the Present Age.
In the context of the essay on statutory making and interpretation, two catalysts for the project were thoughts of Joseph de Maistre (“a nation gets the government it deserves”) and George Santayana (“those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”).
April 26, 2013
Gone With the Wind
In David O. Selznick’s classic film about the American Civil War, one of the principal characters, Scarlett O’Hara, engages the Tarleton brothers with the following dialogue:
Scarlett: Fiddle-dee-dee! War, war, war; this war talk’s spoiling all the fun at every party this spring. I get so bored I could scream. Besides... there isn’t going to be any war.
Brent Tarleton: Not going to be any war?
Stuart Tarleton: Why, honey, of course there’s gonna be a war.
Scarlett: If either of you boys says “war” just once again, I’ll go in the house and slam the door.
Brent Tarleton: But Scarlett, honey...
Stuart Tarleton: Don’t you want us to have a war?
Of course there was a war, and it was, like most wars devastating and took tragic tolls on human life even though many Americans characterized by the Tarleton brothers may have initially welcomed the conflict.
Rick has just brought to our attention another report about another grave conflict in the United States by focusing on the American President’s address before Planned Parenthood in which Mr. Obama defended once again what now are called “rights”—the right to take an innocent human life. The President employed rhetoric, “an assault on women’s rights,” to critique those organizations and states who prepare and execute policies designed to regulate abortion. [President’s entire address is HERE]
Real wars involving real assaults against innocent civilians do bring casualties to the conflict. What the President failed to do in his speech before the members of the Planned Parenthood organization was to identify the real victim of abortion politics and the ensuing conflicts emanating from these politics, the over fifty million young Americans whose lives have been snuffed out by the very “right” he champions.
If he were really interested in discussing and debating the real casualties of the conflicts over abortion with the alleged right he defends so freely and enthusiastically, he should have mentioned the deaths of our young brothers and sisters who have been the real casualties of the abortion wars. But instead, the President defended women’s questionable Constitutional rights, but he did not mention that there are other ways of protecting their authentic rights with moral legitimacy—that there are other ways of avoiding assaults on the authentic rights of women. Rather, he allowed the sacred memory of the victims of abortion to be forgotten. Sadly, he chose not to speak about them or the rights which objective reason grants to them. Why? Well, after all, they, too, like the subjects in Selznick’s film are gone with the wind.
April 17, 2013
News, Truth, and the Common Good
Greg, Robby, and Rick, amongst others, have underscored in recent days the deficiencies in the reporting of momentous events which impact us on an individual and communal basis. The underlying theme of their postings has been the thunderous reticence of much of the media in reporting the trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell and his intentional killing of new born babies who were targeted for termination by abortion. Is there not a duty on the media’s part to report truthfully the news that impacts the common good? Those of us who are lawyers are or should be familiar with the responsibility to be accurate and forthcoming in what we present. If we do not, there are distinct consequences. Business people must do the same, and so should the members of the other learned professions. Tradespeople have duties to disclose information about consumer products and services; the failure to do so will lead to their being held accountable. But why do many members of the media think that they are different? In reporting the events of the day, it is often said by them that there is a “right” for the public to know what government officials are up to; what ecclesiastical officers must disclose by way of protection of the vulnerable; and, what folks in business are purveying to a consuming public. In justifying what they do, the media often rely on the need of the public’s “right” to know, but it seems that if the media do not think there is a story to sell, the obligation to disclose does not exist; hence, there is no “right” to know that which does not need to be known if the media determine it so. Moreover, if the media’s editors believe that publication of an important story would not accord with their editorial policies dealing with neuralgic issues, e.g., abortion and other reproductive “rights,” then the story does not merit publication in whatever format the media organ uses.
But the media, like the learned professions and businesses, do serve to a major degree the common good, i.e., the simultaneous good of each and the good of all—for the two are inextricably connected. In short, do the media not have a recognized duty to publish the truth objectively, especially about major issues and events, rather than to make its own “truth” through silence or misrepresentation? This was a theme of Benedict XVI in his 2008 World Communications Day message when he said,
We must ask, therefore, whether it is wise to allow the instruments of social communication to be exploited for indiscriminate “self-promotion” or to end up in the hands of those who use them to manipulate consciences. Should it not be a priority to ensure that they remain at the service of the person and of the common good, and that they foster “man’s ethical formation … man’s inner growth”? Their extraordinary impact on the lives of individuals and on society is widely acknowledged, yet today it is necessary to stress the radical shift, one might even say the complete change of role, that they are currently undergoing. Today, communication seems increasingly to claim not simply to represent reality, but to determine it, owing to the power and the force of suggestion that it possesses. It is clear, for example, that in certain situations the media are used not for the proper purpose of disseminating information, but to “create” events. This dangerous change in function has been noted with concern by many Church leaders. Precisely because we are dealing with realities that have a profound effect on all those dimensions of human life (moral, intellectual, religious, relational, affective, cultural) in which the good of the person is at stake, we must stress that not everything that is technically possible is also ethically permissible.
Perhaps not reporting major issues is not always the same thing as “creating” events, but the failure to report accurately stories of the day having an impact on the common good is surely the kind of misrepresentation for which many others, including lawyers, can be sanctioned. Indisputably the failure to report the intentional killing of newborn children is of a major concern. I wonder if many in the media find this uninteresting and not worth reporting because they have accepted the deaths of over fifty million young Americans in the reproductive health clinics of the nation? If they have conditioned themselves into accepting this tragedy, what else may they find uninteresting and therefore not worth reporting?
April 03, 2013
The Decline and Fall of the Great University
I am grateful to Susan for bringing to our attention the matter of Johns Hopkins University and what is considered to be generating discomfort for some members of the university to have a recognized pro-life group on campus. What Christopher Dawson projected a half century ago regarding certain beliefs not only being unwelcomed but being pushed out of existence is the reality of the present age.
I wonder if those responsible for the denial of the pro-life organization's recognition would also be "uncomftable" with the need to: work, study, write, publish, think, evaluate, research, discuss, debate, and (perhaps most importantly) search for the objective truth which does, in fact, exist if we care to look for it.
March 30, 2013
A picture is worth many words...
March 27, 2013
The Proposition 8 Case and the Equality Argument
Yesterday’s oral arguments on the California Proposition 8 case disclosed many interesting thoughts about the meaning of marriage not only in California but everywhere else. Today’s oral arguments which should be underway by now will likely do the same. The scope of my posting today is limited to the very first remarks made by Theodore Olson arguing on behalf of the Respondents (those seeking to legalize same-sex marriage in California, and elsewhere) and the Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. who argued in support of the Respondents’ position. Mr. Olson opened his argument with this:
[Proposition 8] walls-off gays and lesbians from marriage, the most important relation in life, according to this Court, thus stigmatizing a class of Californians based upon their status and labeling their most cherished relationships as second-rate, different, unequal, and not okay.
In his opening words, General Verrilli said this:
Proposition 8 denies gay and lesbian persons the equal protection of the laws.
Both of these opening remarks are important and expected claims; however, both of them are untrue. Proposition 8 does not deny equality to anyone. Rather, it levels the playing field so that any person is treated the same when it comes to marriage. No one is stigmatized. No one is second rate. No one is unequal. All persons—heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, transgendered, questioning, etc.—are in the same boat under Proposition 8; therefore, all are treated equally. There is no denial of equality; there is no instantiation of inequality by Proposition 8’s operation.
Knowing that I am entering a topic that bears great sensitivity, I want to express clearly that it is not my intention to insult, demean, or marginalize anyone and the dignity that is inherent to everyone. I think that there must be equal access to the claim of dignity which does not imply or require the further conclusion that all persons are equal in all respects nor must their ideas and positions be judged equal in all respects. To disagree with someone with different views on any subject—including same-sex marriage—is precisely that, to disagree—a disagreement that is based on intelligence comprehending and intelligible world. The nature of disagreement is to enter a debate with reasoned analysis and objective commentary supported by factual analyses. To disagree is not to demean; to debate is not to insult; to contradict with objective reasoning is not to marginalize or unjustly discriminate.
By insisting through legislation or adjudication that one thing is equal to something else does not in fact make it so (our human intelligence and our understanding of the intelligible world lead us to this conclusion)—for there must be some foundation based on facts and reason that can justify the equality claim (once again, our human intelligence and our understanding of the intelligible world inexorably lead us to this second conclusion). If this factual-rational foundation is lacking, the equality claim must necessarily fail unless the legal mechanism considering the claim is a purely positivist one. This is patent when the physical differences of male and female and their biological complementarity essential to the continuation of the human race are taken into account. The promotion of “legal argument” that attempts to justify same-sex unions as being the equal of opposite-sex marriage is a contradiction of reason and fact which destabilizes the integrity of a legal system and the substantive law that undergirds it. Reliance on an “equality” argument to advance legal schemes to recognize same sex-marriage does not make relations between two men or two women the same as the complementary relation between a man and a women when reason and fact state that they are equal in certain ways but not in other ways that are crucial to the institution of marriage. While the sexual relations between same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples may both generate physical pleasures through sexual intimacy, these two kinds of sexual relations are substantively different in that the latter exemplifies the procreative capacity that is the foundation of the human race based on the ontological reality of the nuclear family (the fundamental unit of society) whereas the former is sterile from its beginning and cannot achieve this objective.
But let us assume for the moment that I am in error on other pertinent issues regarding same-sex unions and that the relationship between two persons of the same sex is the equal of the marriage between a man and a woman. What conclusions do we then reach as further considerations surrounding the marital context are pursued? These considerations include: equality claims made for other relationships in which proponents argue that these relationships can also be marriages if the relationship of same-sex couples can become a marriage; moreover, by denying the marital status to the partners of these other relationships is there also a violation of equality? A list of such affiliations might include these: a collective of men or women—or a mixture of both sexes—who claim the right to be equal and therefore married in a polygamous context; a sexual affiliation of someone in age-minority and someone in age-majority who claim the right to be equal and therefore married in spite of current prohibitions on age limitations; a sexual relationship of closely related persons who, in spite of legal prohibitions due to degrees of consanguinity, claim the equal right to marriage; or any combinations of human beings who wish to associate with other biological entities who (at least the humans) insist that their relation is or should be considered the equal of a marriage between a man and a woman.
The equality argument supporting same-sex marriage runs into difficulty when one considers that the heterosexual marriage partners, because of their biological nature, are typically capable of reproducing with one another but the homosexual partners are not. It is absolutely essential to take stock of the indisputable about the physical nature of the human being and its bearing on marriage. A homosexual man and a heterosexual man are presumed equally capable of inseminating any woman, and a lesbian and a heterosexual woman are presumed equally capable of being inseminated by any man. Why? Because intelligence and the intelligible world demonstrate this conclusion to be true. But no man, heterosexual or homosexual, can inseminate any other man. Nor can any woman, heterosexual or homosexual, inseminate another woman without the assistance of artificial means. Neither judicial nor legislative fiat can alter this biological reality of human nature. Any man can deposit his semen and sperm in another man, but this does not lead to fertilization of human eggs and procreation. No woman can produce sperm-bearing semen and inject it into another woman thereby leading to the fertilization of the second woman’s egg. The procreation argument against same-sex unions works not because of legal fiction or artifice but because of biological reality that is inextricably a part of human nature that has been a part of the traditional definition of marriage that the majority in Goodridge could not dispute. Again, human intelligence and the intelligible world are working in tandem when these conclusions are reached. Put simply, the Goodridge majority and others making similar claims ignore these crucial points about reality, and ignoring reality does not make for wise and sound law except for the steadfast positivist whose will typically overcomes the intellect. The only way to overcome this obstacle to the same-sex marriage campaign is to put aside the natural and historical definition of marriage and manufacture a new one that suits the needs of same-sex marriage advocates.
The final point I’ll offer today is this: heterosexual, homosexual, bi-sexual, transgendered, and sexually questioning persons share the same position under Proposition 8 which treats all alike. No heterosexual man can marry another man regardless of his orientation. No homosexual man can marry another man regardless of his orientation. No heterosexual woman can marry another woman regardless of her orientation. No homosexual woman can marry another woman regardless of her orientation.
This is not inequality; rather it is equality pure and simple. This is another reason why Mr. Olson’s and General Verrilli’s assertions are without merit.
March 22, 2013
A reflection for Holy Week—Christian faith, the Law, and Peter
We are about to enter Holy Week as we finish Passion Week. Why do Christians—including those at the Mirror of Justice—celebrate this time? Because we are sinners and know that we are in need of reformation in this life because we are destined for another one. As we are reminded on Ash Wednesday, we must repent and believe in the Gospel because we are dust and to dust we shall inevitably return. I was reminded of this yesterday as I had a radical chemotherapy procedure done through the insertion of cytotoxins via several lumbar punctures. Even though doctors are trying to help prolong my life, I realize that this corporeal existence does not and cannot last forever. This is not the destiny of any of us; the destiny we share and must all face individually is judgment before God who will forgive us of our sins if we consciously seek the conversion taught by Christ. This is a life-long struggle, but it is the enterprise of the person of faith. During yesterday’s procedure, I was also reminded of the passion of Christ who died not because he was a nice guy who simply cared for others but because, as God incarnate, He died for the remission of our sins. God incarnate shows us what we must do in this life to prepare for the next. The prayers used at the administration of ashes came to mind once again. We are all that woman in Saint’s Gospel who had sinned; Jesus encourages her and us that He does not condemn us, yet He also directs us to sin no more.
In this regard, I should like to call attention to the allocution delivered by our Holy Father Francis to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See earlier today. [HERE: scroll down for official text in English] In his address, Pope Francis recalled once again why he chose the name of Francis in order to honor the one of Assisi whose love for the poor who suffer the indignities of this corporeal existence. His exhortation urged the representatives of the nations of the world to help “the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalized, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.” But Pope Francis properly noted that another Francis might be at work in his Petrine ministry, and that is the one of Xavier who went forth into the world seeking the conversion of souls, or as Father Ignatius argued, for the defense and propagation of the faith and for the progress of souls in Christian life. The Holy Father thus spoke of another kind of poverty that devastates the world today.
That is the poverty which is spiritual and afflicts, in particular, the developed countries of the world such as our own. He specifically noted and appropriated Pope Benedict’s phrase of the “tyranny of relativism” that afflicts those in the world who have no need for faith in God in their lives. Faith is essential to a just, peaceful, and secure world. And, the peace of Christ is essential to all this, but as Pope Francis continued, “there can be no true peace without truth” which Saint John’s Gospel (which we’ll hear next week) reminds us, is Christ who is the Truth in spite of what Pilate thought.
By the use of our God-given intelligence which capacitates us to comprehend the intelligible reality of ourselves, our human nature, and the world that surrounds us, we can live lives that place ourselves on the straight path to God and away from the crooked path to sin. We have the intelligence to formulate norms (including human law) that will facilitate this for Christians, other believers in God, and for all people of good will. This why Pope Francis reminded the members of the diplomatic corps that it “is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God” for He is what it’s all about. But by the same token, our path to God must also not forget our brothers and sisters everywhere regardless of who they are.
Somehow, some commentators who are superficially embracing Pope Francis are concentrating on his personal humility and his work with the marginalized—or those marginalized who are at the center of the causes that these advocates endorse. However, the selectivity in endorsing Pope Francis’s work must be carefully evaluated and critiqued. It is not only good to love those with whom you identify, but it is expected of Christians and certainly those of Loyola’s company to help all people understand and address the Original Sin that permeates the human condition. Humility and good works are wonderful and essential elements of Christian existence but they are empty if they are not directed to the conversion necessary for the salvation of souls. That is something that many in our developed world today forget, including the most prominent members of our society who think that embracing the ways of the world are a permissible means of seeking God. If these ways forget our sinfulness, then they become empty gestures that defy rather than accept what Francis lays before us. I say again to us all: repent and believe in the Gospel. Francis is helping us along the way by his own example.
March 14, 2013
The Grey Lady’s “Unholy Alliance”
Prior to the euphoria associated with the election to the papacy of Pope Francis, The New York Times published this past Monday an editorial entitled “Unholy Alliance.” [Here] The editorial was a harsh critique of the Holy See and alleged that it was in an “unholy alliance” with the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Russian Federation designed to derail the “final communiqué” of the annual two-week meeting at the United Nations Headquarters of the Commission on the Status of Women. In relying on finger pointing of some “delegates” and “activists”, the Times argues that this “unholy alliance” is trying to eliminate language that would “eliminate violence” against women. I cannot say what approach the Iranians and Russians have taken in the discussions leading to the final text of this year’s Commission, but I can with humble confidence say something about the Holy See’s position and method of proceeding as expressed in its official intervention in the plenary sessions of the Commission. [Here]
I cannot reconcile the Times’s branding of the Holy See as part of a Trinitarian “unholy alliance” with the Vatican’s actual position in and contributions to the Commission’s deliberations. The Times fails to understand or accept the possibility that even “conservative hard-liners” might be right on certain issues, particularly when the subject matter deals with the falsehood that abortion is a “human right” as the Times contends. If we could ask to over fifty million young Americans who lost their lives from an abortion performed on them since Roe was decided, I am confident that they would also disagree that abortion is a “human right.” In this regard the Times defends its view with the statement that “[t]he efforts by the Vatican and Iran to control women are well known.” But is the Church’s position as well-known as the paper contends? Again, I cannot speak about Iran’s position, but it is imperative that if anyone including the Times and is interested in what is truly going on in the current session of the Commission on the Status of Women they must read the Holy See’s intervention to which I have already supplied to link. It is this statement, and not some phantom “unholy alliance”, that guides those delegates who represent the Holy See in their great efforts to stop violence against women and girls and to promote their genuine dignity and worth that is a central element of the UN’s mandate. When an objective reader considers the Vatican text, I doubt that he or she would reach the same conclusion that is proffered by the Times. It is not control of women that the Holy See is after; rather, it is the protection of everyone’s fundamental and natural claims to the life God has given us all.
The Times derides “traditional values” that it asserts are used to “justify the violation of basic human rights.” Yet, it does not specify which are the values espoused and which are the rights affected. However, the paper, in a weak effort to reinforce its position, relies on the Norwegian gender equality minister’s interesting assertion that “Violence against women must be seen as a human rights issue, and that has nothing to do with culture or religion.” The first part of her statement before the comma seems to make sense, but I question the second part in which it is contended that human rights have nothing to do with culture or religion. If this is the case, I think the Times and the minister ought to familiarize themselves with the major human rights instruments and declarations of public international law. When they do, they will see that religion and culture have a great deal to do with human rights because they are recognized as human rights; however, an examination of these same declarations and juridical documents reveals nothing about abortion being a human right. The reason for this is because it is not, nor could abortion become one.
The Times is correct in expressing outrage about violence against girls and women, but it does not acknowledge that the very first paragraph of the Holy See’s intervention says the following:
“This year’s choice of this important topic underlines the tragic reality of the continued victimization of women and girls around the world by myriad forms of exploitation and violence, in a shameful continuum, ranging from sex-selective abortions, female infanticide, abandonment, trafficking, rape, domestic abuse, rape as a weapon of war, forced prostitution, to misguided government policies unduly restricting the number of children per family and other forms of violence. Many women and girls, from the moment of conception until natural death, face an array of immoral and dehumanizing acts of violence. In addition, degrading practices, such as female genital mutilation, child marriage, forced sterilization and forced abortions, characterize this continuum and constitute heinous forms of oppression trampling upon the dignity of women and girls. This reality demands that Governments as well as all societal institutions undertake concerted and comprehensive efforts to address this grave problem.”
It is puzzling that the Times makes no effort to acknowledge the two dozen places in the Church’s interventions where the Vatican text addresses violence against women and girls. Moreover, unlike the Holy See, the Grey Lady is less interested in the authentic dignity and worth of women and girls, but, unlike the Holy See, it appears to be more interested in promoting the exaggerated autonomy of some persons over the authentic human rights of everyone. If there is an “unholy alliance” lurking somewhere in the meetings on the Commission of the Status of Women, the Holy See is not a part of it. Interestingly, the Holy See acknowledged that the commercialization of the human person has something to do with reinforcing a culture in which violence against girls, women, and everyone else is a part of the real problem. As her intervention stated:
“The advertising which proliferates around the world is an example of how the human person is demeaned, commodified and sexualized into an object for others’ perversion and lust. The woman is thereby reduced to a body without a mind or a soul. In this context, it is most urgent for us to discern solutions that are not merely limited to the short term, or lowest common denominator, and which inevitably prolong the causes for violence, but rather to pursue solutions which address the root causes of violence versus women.”
The Times would not have to look too far to observe one venue in which this commercialization that undermines rather than reinforces the dignity and worth of the human person takes place.
March 13, 2013
Pope Francis I
Some years ago I was asked by a papal nuncio if I thought it were possible for a Jesuit to become pope--after all, Jesuits are forbidden to seek or accept ecclesiastical office unless specifically commanded by the one with the authority to do so.
I told that nuncio that I thought it possible, and that one day, if it were the will of God, it would happen. Apparently, I was correct in my double assertion.
May God grant our Holy Father many years. And as we often say in the Society of Jesus, Ad multos annos!