The Black Hole of American Morality

October 2012By Carl Sundell

Carl Sundell is Professor Emeritus of English and Humanities at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He currently resides in Lubbock, Texas.

The increasing blindness to true human dignity expresses itself, for example, in the way even the most horrible sexual perversions (such as sodomy) are shown in movies and even recommended by some psychiatrists. Such aberrations have always existed, but their abominable anti-moral, anti-human character was clearly recognized. The growing acceptance of them is a last notch of dehumanization and depersonalization and, at least in the Christian era, was never to be found before. — Dietrich von Hildebrand

Nietzsche saw it coming. “If you stare long enough into the abyss, the abyss will stare back into you.” But aren’t these the words of a man slowly going insane? Since Nietzsche’s day, we have peered more deeply than ever into a moral abyss, and there are reasons to believe that the abyss is staring back and slowly pulling us into itself. We do not see in the abyss what Nietzsche saw: the sublime Superman into which Man was destined to evolve. Rather, we see now more than ever the highly evolved Underman: the creature who, with an approving nod from the state, may kill his own unborn child, who may openly and freely mock the sane disgust for sodomy, and who, by various devices of the courts, may rout from all corners of the nation every trace of a ruling God. This, any survivors of the old order have a right to suspect, is not going to end well.

The muscular Christianity that American politicians once respected and feared apparently no longer exists. The churches have failed to show any effective opposition to the stampede toward moral relativism that seems to be overtaking the courts, the legislatures, and the executive branch of government.

Today there are six Catholics on the Supreme Court (why there are six is a puzzle in itself). But we are not apprised of the slightest movement toward referring Roe v. Wade, same-sex marriage, or any other of the critical moral issues of our time to the supreme deliberations of that august body. Catholicism in America, some fear, is moving precariously toward the position of the Catholic Church in Nazi Germany, putting up at best a feeble opposition that future historians (surely those who count themselves enemies of religion) are likely to cite with self-righteous contempt.

Nor is the matter helped by the clerical sex scandals of recent years, reminiscent of the Nazi indictments of German Catholic priests for sex crimes in the 1930s. The moral authority of the Catholic bishops today is truly suspect insofar as non-Catholics, and even some Catholics, are concerned. The infighting among Catholic theologians about what is and is not Catholic teaching, not to mention the false and disgraceful public statements about Catholic teaching by prominent yet ill-formed Catholic politicians, leaves serious doubt about how unified and effective the Church can ever be as an army that knows its enemy and knows how to fight without being divided and conquered.

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Back to October 2012 Issue

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Painfully, I have to agree w/ most of Maryann's comments. Although Cardinal Dolan is very charming, affable, and most of bishops didn't enter priesthood to spend their lives on the cultural, spiritual battlefield, nevertheless, it is agony to watch Holy Mother Church be dragged through a neverending cesspool of hypocrisy. So many of our politicians, Biden, Pelosi, Kerry, just to name a few, are professing Catholics and are actively promoting, supporting lifestyles and actions that are in direct opposition to Catholic Church teachings ... and they remain in the Church!! That is the worst of it ... there are no consequences for one's words and deeds. And its contagious .... who needs to obey if it doesn't matter what you do or say? Until we clean out our own "closets"of immorality and false teachings allowed to fester WITHIN the Church, its unlikely we'll have any positive spiritual influence on the culture as a whole. Why haven't the publicly dissenting "nuns on the bus" whose leader spoke w/ gusto at the Dem Convention been EXCOMMUNICATED ?! Along w/ Sebellius, Biden, Pelosi, Cuomo, etc etc etc. Posted by: D.C. Garvin
October 11, 2012 10:32 AM EDT
D.C., the best way we can show God we love Him is to obey Him. Corrupt clerics do not obey God because it would interfere with their lifestyles. Most of them live very well and on their own terms. They want Christ without the cross.
I will give you a classic example of what I mean. About ten years ago, the pastor in our parish was caught with multiple cookies on the hard drive of his rectory computer that contained pornography depicting older men having sex with pubescent boys. The bishop pulled him from the parish. He told the congregation that the pastor had been viewing "immoral websites". He did not explain the nature of those sites. The pastor maintained that he didn't know how those cookies got on his computer. He admitted to looking at other pornographic sites relating to women. He said he did it because he was depressed over his brother having been killed in one of the towers on 9/11. This pastor had been a problem for awhile before this happened. He repeatedly used invalid matter during Mass and refused to account for missing funds raised on parish grounds for charity. He treated those who questioned him with arrogance and contempt so when his extracurricular activities became public, many of us were not surprised.
The bishop returned him to the parish four months later because, he said, the good pastor hadn't committed any crimes. The "boys" on the sites were over 18 but looked much younger, according to the District Attorney. The rectory's bookkeeper, who stumbled upon the sites, was fired shortly thereafter. He has a wife and four children. He sued the pastor and the diocese for violating the whistleblower law. When the judge ordered the pastor's attorneys to submit the hard drive to the court as evidence, it was destroyed. As far as I know, they are still in litigation.
If the pastor was regularly viewing those sites, he was obviously a threat to male minors. If he was depressed over his brother's death, he should have turned to prayer, not criminally perverse filth, for comfort. The bishop should have drawn those conclusions and removed him permanently. The fact that he didn't is frightening. Anyone who thinks that the clerical sex scandal problem in the United States has been resolved is living in a dream world.
This is only one example of the corruption and hypocrisy I have witnessed in my diocese. These so-called men of God are a brood of vipers. If Obama wins the Catholic vote again, and we as a nation have to endure another four years of his governance, you can blame them.
Posted by: Maryann Ragan
October 12, 2012 08:14 AM EDT
I do not agree with Professor Sundell on two fronts. The United States' capability to "annihilate" the world is necessary. Peace is kept through strength.
As for Cardinal Dolan: If he and the bishops in New York were truly interested in reviving Catholic influence in public affairs, they would have stopped the passage of gay marriage in the state legislature. The deciding votes were cast by Catholics. They would have excommunicated the Catholic governor, Andrew Cuomo, for pushing it through and for supporting abortion through all nine months of pregnancy and for living in the governor's mansion with a woman he is not married to (he divorced his wife)and for publicly receiving Holy Communion despite all this. If Cardinal Dolan was a true apostle of Jesus, he would not have given the benediction at the Democrat Convention, whose leaders and delegates wanted to strike God's name from their platform and who unapologetically support evils like gay marriage and abortion. He would not have invited President Obama to the Al Smith dinner next week, which sends the message to Catholic voters that voting for him is a viable option. His involvement in the sex scandals is well known and he should not have been appointed the cardinal of New York in the first place, especially when there are other bishops, like Bruskewitz in Nebraska, who are far more worthy of the honor.
The main reason why our nation has fallen into moral dissipation is because the Catholic Church in America fell first. Too many of the bishops here are corrupt, corpulent and cowardly. Until that changes, the decline will continue.
Posted by: Maryann Ragan
October 11, 2012 07:31 AM EDT
These posters above are right.
I hate to say it, and I *do* pray for these bishops's repentance, but a great number, if not a great MAJORITY, of our American Roman Catholic bishops are, frankly, "useless eaters." They receive food,clothing, shelter, fame and prominence paid for by our donations, and want to live a life of "being liked by" everybody in the Political Arena, including WICKED APOSTATES from Catholicism, which includes MOST of the Catholic Politicians in Congress, the white house, and the supreme court and state legislatures today. These men and women, public heretics and blasphemers, should all IMMEDIATELY be publicly excommunicated, BY NAME, and told they must remain OUTSIDE the church for at least 5 years (as far as communion or any church function goes) even AFTER they repent, BECAUSE their PUBLIC Sins have been so defiant and egregious as to make them legitimately suspect of ALREADY having quite possibly BLASPHEMED THE HOLY SPIRIT (Matt 12: 31, 32, cf Hebrews 6:4-8 and Hebrews 10:26-31 -- woe to those who call Evil, Good and who call good, "Evil." These politicians are ALL doing THAT). And the bishops do not do a D*MNED thing. I pray they repent, because it was a great saint and bishop (I forget his name) who famously informed us that "The Flood of Hell is LITTERED with the bodies of Bad Bishops." I hate to say it, but I believe he spoke accurately.
Posted by: Don
October 24, 2012 09:31 PM EDT
I'm sorry for the typo above.
the quote correctly is that "The FLOOR of Hell is LITTERED with the bodies of Bad Bishops." The FLOOR, not the Flood. I apologize to you all.
Posted by: Don
October 24, 2012 09:37 PM EDT
Don, John Sanidopoulos' Orthodox Christian weblog Mystagogy 11/14/10 addresses the origin of idioms about 'bad clergy' and hell. I'm reassured that the origins are vague. I don't like thinking they're doomed. Posted by: wpjmd
October 29, 2012 12:18 PM EDT
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