The Indoctrination of the American Masses
Tom Bethells article The Conservative Surrender in the Culture Wars (Sept.) was both timely and accurate. Most of my students at the college where I am a professor are preparing to go into the medical field. One topic covered in the science classes I teach is the health consequences of homosexual behavior. In my office I have a file drawer of peer-reviewed medical articles on this topic that document the adverse consequences of such behavior. Yet, ironically, the well-documented health consequences of homosexual behavior are almost never mentioned in the flood of articles on homosexuality in the popular press, most of which are laudatory, or at least very supportive, of the so-called gay lifestyle. The result is an indoctrination of the masses rarely seen in American history. Consequently, homosexual behavior has progressed from a felony offense in every state in the Union only a few years ago to its practitioners achieving protected-minority status.
As homosexual behavior increasingly becomes mainstream, both medical and psychological research will be completed. I expect this research will more firmly support current findings that show that this behavior has a devastating effect on health and society.
As Bethell documents, besides the loss of health, some of our freedom of speech has also been lost as a result of the homosexual movement. The University of Toledo fired Crystal Dixon, an African-American university administer, for writing a short op-ed piece in the Toledo Free Press that tactfully expressed her Christian reservations about homosexual behavior. She filed a civil-rights lawsuit but lost. The court ruled that her speech, which the university interpreted as critical of homosexuality, was a justifiable reason to end her promising career.
Northwest State Community College
The Apotheosis of Entertainment
Frederick W. Marks has given a very well-documented case for Americans excessive preoccupation with sports (The Apotheosis of Sports, Oct.). Yet the basic problem is not sports; it consists primarily in an outlook that avoids a sense of purpose and instead immerses itself in entertainment of any sort. This can be seen in the desire to be able to watch movies and television (sporting events included) and play video games at any time, in any place, on our smartphones.
New York, New York
Regarding Frederick W. Markss article: I have always loved and advocated sports. I was a decent, perhaps above-average athlete during my youth when I played on town and high-school football and baseball teams. Later on, my friends and I played in local softball leagues. Mainly we played to have fun and pass the time. We werent subjected to regulated fitness and nutrition programs, and we werent required to attend meetings or skills clinics until late in the night. Once the games were over, we forgot about the whole thing. No one lost sleep over any particular game.
With the proper perspective, sports can have beneficial effects on a persons health and character. Not only does one develop strength and agility, one learns a sense of teamwork, fair play, and respect for rules. Yet, as Dr. Marks points out, the commercialization and ultracompetitive nature of sports even at the high-school level has had harmful side effects: The compulsion to win, to succeed, to be a star, can become manic and puts undue stress on young players, the majority of whom will never play in college, much less in the pros. This hyperemphasis on winning is turning games into work for many kids.
The culture of stardom that it fosters may lead to narcissistic traits in some young athletes, who feel they are special and have gifts that make them intrinsically superior to others, warranting adulation and cheering from the crowds. Sports becomes the battle of the gods rather than games played for the sake of fun and health.
Narcissism as a cultural value undermines Christian cultural values, as the inflated human ego crowds out ones sense of dependence on a Supreme Being, a Final Cause, a Redeemer. Sports in themselves are a good thing; the deification of sports or players is not.
The climax of this cult could be seen in baseballs steroid era, when players who looked like Marvel superheroes performed unheard-of feats. The American public bought into it and turned these men into gods an injustice to the players, the fans, and the sport itself.
Hackensack, New Jersey
A Model of Modern-Day Martyrdom
Apropos of Terry Scambrays review of Raymond Ibrahims Crucified Again: Exposing Islams New War on Christians (Oct.): It seems beyond question that in our day the Church is being challenged to produce more and more martyred witnesses to the faith more perhaps than at any time in her history. The stories that reach the secular press and receive wide dissemination are relatively few compared with the reality reported to more attuned audiences. The reporting of Islamic terrorism has tended to be limited to special interests largely because secular Western societies are reluctant to draw attention to the 1,500-year history of inherent Islamic religious belligerence that has now reached a new zenith.
The West breathes the air of Christian civilization but, in any official sense, refuses to acknowledge its religious base by drawing direct attention to its rudimentary foundation in Christian humanism. A vigorous religious confrontation with Islam is no longer within its competence, and a coherent response to the violence and inhumanity of radical Islam is impossible. At one extreme, the West reacts to beheadings, but at the other, it refuses to acknowledge the perversions of conscience represented in Sharia law.
And so, while our Christian martyrs go largely unacknowledged in this current and longstanding confrontation of civilizations, how ungrateful we would be to God if we did not take note of and receive into our hearts the grace that God is pouring out on the world because of their sacrifices. Perhaps if we take note of just one, and use that person as an exemplar of the rest, we may begin to give thanks to them and to God for their heroic deaths, simultaneously prompting ourselves to rise above our own sins and profess the faith that is within us by the consistent witness of our daily lives.
I propose that Fadi Matanius Mattah be invoked as a representative of those who are currently offering their lives for the sake of their faith in Jesus Christ. As reported by Fides, the news service of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, on January 8, Mattah, 34, and Firas Nader, 29, were driving from Homs, in western Syria, to the Christian village of Marmarita when a group of five armed jihadists opened fire on their vehicle. Upon reaching their car, the militiamen noted that Mattah was wearing a cross around his neck. They beheaded him and took his money and documents, leaving Nader on the ground wounded, believing he was already dead. Nader managed to escape to the town of Almshtaeih, and Christians from Marmarita were able to recover Mattahs body.
Observing the uncomplicated directness and deliberateness of this mans martyrdom, and the profound simplicity of his witness, represented by his wearing a cross around his neck, I regularly offer the following personal prayer: Holy witness Fadi Matanius Mattah, your willingness to proclaim your faith in Jesus openly by wearing a cross around your neck is a great inspiration to us. Please, I ask you, pray for my family, that all our members will keep the Catholic faith regardless of ridicule, threats, danger, or abuse. In thanksgiving for your intercession on our behalf, I promise to tell others of your martyrs death. Amen.
Bernard M. Collins
Silver Spring, Maryland
Who Is Responsible for Our Failures in Iraq?
In your New Oxford Note The Blood Crying Out from the Ground (Oct.), you state that, under Catholic just-war doctrine, four conditions must be met for legitimate defense by military force to occur:
(1) The damage inflicted by an aggressor must be grave and lasting. Saddam Husseins regime had been killing Shia Muslims for decades in its war with Iran and its purges of its own citizens. His regime gassed and exterminated thousands of Kurds in Iraqs northern lands. Iraq had invaded a sovereign state, Kuwait, and was defeated. In 1996 UNICEF estimated that 4,500 Iraqi children were dying of starvation each month. This was occurring in part because Hussein was diverting moneys from the much-praised Oil-For-Food Program into his private coffers, capital he used to finance his continued military ambitions.
(2) All other means of putting an end to it have been ineffective. Hussein had signed a peace treaty with the U.S. and its allies after the 1991 Gulf War in which he promised to remove his weapons of mass destruction, which his administration admitted were owned by Iraq. On multiple occasions he refused to allow UN inspectors to search for these outlawed weapons. The U.S. gave Iraq ample time to meet this treaty obligation, which it never saw fit to honor. This October, more weapons of mass destruction were uncovered in Iraq, including a key ingredient in the making of nuclear weapons: yellow cake uranium.
(3) The prospect of success must be serious. Ever since the disastrous decision by the Democratic Party (led by nominally Catholic Sen. Edward Kennedy) to stop financing the South Vietnamese in the struggle to fight communist aggression in 1974, the U.S. has been unreliable in protecting the allies it intervenes to help. We had a good chance at success in Iraq if we would have continued to station troops there. The U.S. occupied the Philippines, Japan, Germany, Austria, South Korea, and the former Confederate States in the American South, all with good success in ending bloodshed. This country no longer has two parties in the government supporting endeavors meant to pacify and civilize defeated enemies.
(4) The use of force must not produce evils greater than the evil to be eliminated. The U.S. had met this requirement until President Obama removed our soldiers from Iraq.
You say that hubris led us to believe that Iraqis wanted what we have democracy and luxury. Some of us actually wanted Iraqis to have democracy and freedom. We wanted to free Iraqis (reconfiguring some of your own words) from their bondage to a bloodthirsty maniac dictator hellbent on ethnic cleansing. We allowed the German people that same opportunity nearly 70 years ago and we still have not removed our military presence in that formerly barbaric nation.
I agree that we bear direct responsibly for the sufferings currently being visited upon the Iraqi people [and] Iraqi Christians. We should be sickened and guilt ridden (an often maligned, but much-needed Catholic trait in todays world) by what we have done and failed to do in South Vietnam and Cambodia, Iraq, and other regions where we refused to finish the good work we started. I quibble with your statement that the American public had moved on to other, more immediate concerns [than the Iraq war]. The American public may have moved on, but this movement no longer occurs under the publics own legs; we are a country currently moved by the news media in any direction it wants to take us. The oligarchic hold the media and its bosses in the Democratic Party have on the American public is frightening. Their shaping of current events is as dangerous as their revisionist history has been on changing the story of civil rights in the American South, Vietnam, and the U.S.-led wars in Iraq.
By involving itself in the Middle East, America has not been creating more terrorists than it is eliminating any more than it is creating more neo-Nazis in Europe by maintaining military installations in Germany. A more plausible reason for the increase of Islamic fundamentalism is that our enemies can sense that Western civilization, at one time based on Catholic morality, is weakening, if not dying. A religion that has always existed to overtake its neighbors smells blood in the water. A vocal minority in this country dictates to browbeaten Christians the policies the elites want implemented. A domestic agenda morally repugnant to Islam, a schizophrenic foreign policy concerning Iraq, and friendly overtures to bullies like North Korea and Iran exacerbate the rationale that America the last great power in the West is waning. By implementing anti-Christian policies that place the advancement of leftist ideology above the good of humankind and the West in general, the historically ignorant Western world and the Democratic Party have allowed Islamic extremism to spread nearly unchecked.
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
By any objective standard, the war in Iraq the decision to engage in it, its prosecution, and its aftermath has been an unmitigated disaster. And the primary responsibility lies with the neoconservative Republicans who pushed for it, clung to it, and defended it when it was abundantly evident that the war was indefensible. Sharing in the blame are the Democrats who supported it (many of whom later backtracked and withdrew their support), but to place the burden of guilt squarely on them for pulling our troops out is ludicrous. There is no evidence whatsoever to support the notion that by lengthening our occupation we would pacify and civilize Islamic extremists or transform Iraq into the Middle Eastern equivalent of the American South or Japan any more than doing the same would have resulted in a different outcome of our good work in Vietnam and Cambodia.
But dont take our word for it. In an October 2007 Washington Post column (over seven years ago), in the wake of George W. Bushs last-ditch troop surge, 12 former Army captains wrote, Iraq is in shambles . Many roads, bridges, schools and hospitals are in deplorable condition. Fewer people have access to drinking water or sewage systems than before the war. And Baghdad is averaging less than eight hours of electricity a day . Transparency International ranks Iraq as one of the most corrupt countries in the world . Against this backdrop, the U.S. military has been trying in vain to hold the country together. Even with the surge, we simply do not have enough soldiers and marines to meet the professed goals of clearing areas from insurgent control . In practice they just push insurgents to another spot on the map . Our best option is to leave Iraq immediately. A scaled withdrawal will spend more blood and treasure on a losing proposition.
Was the Iraq war just? Most certainly not. The U.S. military itself declared it a preventive strike. In September 2002 Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger said, The concept of preventive war does not appear in the Catechism. Just wars, according to Catholic doctrine, can only be defensive in nature. Preventive wars are, therefore, automatically unjust.
Moreover, each condition in Catholic just-war doctrine must be satisfied with moral certainty in order for a war to be defined as just. Who can honestly assert that this is so with regard to our invasion of Iraq?
As for the four conditions we mentioned:
(1) Saddam Hussein might have been an aggressor against his own people and his neighbors, but he did not threaten the U.S., disqualifying this condition from consideration.
(2) War is the last resort. The men who sat on the Throne of Peter during our Iraq adventure didnt think wed reached that point. Just days before the U.S. invasion, Pope St. John Paul II said, There is still time to negotiate. A few months later, Cardinal Ratzinger said, There were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war against Iraq. In fact, Pio Cardinal Laghi, whom John Paul dispatched to meet with President Bush to plead against an invasion of Iraq, stated at the time, There is a great unity on this grave matter on the part of the Holy See, the Bishops in the United States, and the Church throughout the world.
As for the chemical weapons our troops found recently in Iraq, these were not the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam was allegedly hiding from UN inspectors (for which the inspectors said there was no evidence) and that were a large part of the rationale for our invasion. The finds are, instead, further evidence of the deluded and self-destructive ideology that led us into the quagmire. As reported in The New York Times (Oct. 14): During the long occupation, American troops began encountering old [pre-1991]chemical munitions in hidden caches and roadside bombs . Filthy, rusty or corroded, a large fraction of them could not be readily identified as chemical weapons at all. Some were empty, though many of them still contained potent mustard agent or residual sarin. Most could not have been used as designed, and when they ruptured dispersed the chemical agents over a limited area, according to those who collected the majority of them. In case after case, participants said, analysis of these warheads and shells reaffirmed intelligence failures. First, the American government did not find what it had been looking for at the wars outset, then it failed to prepare its troops and medical corps for the aged weapons it did find . In five of six incidents in which troops were wounded by chemical agents, the munitions appeared to have been designed in the United States, manufactured in Europe and filled in chemical agent production lines built in Iraq by Western companies.
(3) How serious were our prospects for success? Pretty poor, for one who has a sense of the history and dynamics of the Middle East. Patrick J. Buchanan answered the question for us in a 2002 column: The one endeavor at which Islamic peoples excel is expelling imperial powers by terror and guerrilla war. They drove the Brits out of Palestine and Aden, the French out of Algeria, the Russians out of Afghanistan, the Americans out of Somalia and Beirut, the Israelis out of Lebanon . [U.S. strategy in the Middle East] will yield the same results.
(4) The evils we produced have indeed been greater than the evil eliminated. Anybody willing to do some very basic research can find this out for himself, with abundant support. Since 2003 over 179,000 Iraqis have been killed and more than 1.2 million displaced; over 5,000 Americans have died; an untold number of Americans and Iraqis have been wounded. The majority of these casualties occurred before President Obama began withdrawing our troops. Comparatively speaking, life under Saddam was safe and secure (see the Army captains description above for a snapshot of life after Saddam). In any case, theres no way he could have killed more than 5,000 Americans. That alone, from an American perspective, disqualifies this condition from consideration.
The historical revisionism Mr. McEwan deplores is, sadly, not limited to the media and its bosses in the Democratic Party.
Those Catholic Privileges
David Millss article The Whole House (Oct.) resonated deeply with me. Like Mills, I am a convert from Anglicanism, and I can testify that the friendly, faithful witness of many Catholics assisted materially in my conversion. Most especially, Brother Henry and Father Maurice of the Trappist monastery in Rogersville, New Brunswick, welcomed me on retreats back in the 1980s, and they showed me the simplicity and joy of living a life in union with the Magisterium. I saw them again this summer in a nursing home in Dieppe, New Brunswick. Though old and sick, they are still faithful and happy and full of love for the Lord and His people. Father still offers Mass every day, and the two monks still recite the Hours together.
Mr. Mills gives both a negative and a positive reason why we Catholics should be faithful in our witness to the Magisterium: Jesus! If we are not faithful, those who do not know Jesus as He really is will never get to know Him. But if we are faithful, those outside the Church may well discover how wonderful it is to live the fullness of life with Jesus in His Church.
After my conversion, I too began to experience this fullness of life, this positive reason for entering the house of the Lord. I remember, in my first months as a Catholic, how relieved I felt at being a member of a community where the real presence of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, the ecclesial maternity of the Blessed Mother, and communion in prayer with the saints were facts of life, not Catholic privileges, as we used to call them so archly in Anglo-Catholic circles.
It seems to me, however, that even Mr. Millss negative reason can be turned into a positive. During the decade that I wrestled seriously with conversion, I came to see that the Church, just because of all her difficult teachings, is really the only genuinely countercultural community in the world. She teaches a view of mankind that stands firmly against the instrumental anthropology that so degrades man today. Her teachings on marriage, contraception, and abortion safeguard her understanding of man, who bears the image of God, and make authentic human life possible.
With that slight nuance, I thank Mr. Mills for a wonderful article.
Richard Upsher Smith Jr.
Professor of Classics, Franciscan University
DAVID MILLS REPLIES:
Many thanks to my friend Prof. Smith for his kind letter. His last point is a very good one and one that is important to keep in mind. I wrote an article for InsideCatholic.com (now Crisis.com) titled Contraception & Conversion (Dec. 30, 2008) on my wifes and my discovery some years before we entered the Church of the Catholic teaching on married sexuality. It was a limit that we found liberating and fruitful literally fruitful. It made impossible the life we had been taught to live, by the culture and the Episcopal Church, and was in that sense a firm no. Yet it made possible a life that is much, much richer, and much, much more human.
A Magazine Writer Cannot Revoke a Magisterial Ruling
Although every statement I made in my earlier letter (Jul.-Aug.) was 100 percent accurate, the Rev. Philip M. Stark (letter, Oct.) refers to it as an elevator of falsehood. But in the 500 words that follow this statement, he does not present a shred of evidence to demonstrate a single error in my letter. Instead, he pursues a false claim of his own.
Neither Fr. Stark nor any legitimate authority has ever produced any evidence that the Pontifical Biblical Commission ever considered, approved, or issued any clarification of its earlier decisions. All that Fr. Stark cites is one sentence from an article that appeared in 1955 in a German magazine that has no connection whatever to the Vatican. Does Fr. Stark think readers of the NOR are so naïve as to believe that a series of magisterial rulings, promulgated in official Vatican journals and explicitly made binding on all Catholics by Pope St. Pius X in a 1907 motu proprio, can be revoked by a writer who has an article published in a German magazine nearly 50 years later?
It is obvious that Fr. Stark is deliberately trying to mislead NOR readers from the fact that he quotes just one sentence from that article, which he claims does not sound like the mere personal opinion of its author. But he ignores a sentence that follows: It is easy enough for us to smile at the narrowness and constraint which prevailed fifty years ago. Obviously, this is not a ruling or decision of the PBC, as Fr. Stark pretends it is; it is indeed the personal opinion of its author.
In order to cover up the fact that he cannot prove that the PBC ever issued any clarification, Fr. Stark fills his letter with his own unfounded speculations, suggesting that the PBC considered it unnecessary to enter said clarification into the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, and that the PBC would naturally want such an embarrassing change of mind to be announced as unobtrusively as possible. All of this is just a smokescreen designed to obscure the truth.
I remind Fr. Stark that when Pius X reaffirmed the rulings of the PBC both those which have been given in the past and which shall be given in the future he warned those who impugn these decisions either in word or in writing that they are guilty of disobedience, scandal, and the sins of which they may be the cause before God.
Joseph H. Gehringer
Manahawkin, New Jersey
Ed. Note: Were kicking this controversy up a notch with Hurd Baruchs article The Crisis in Biblical Scholarship in this issue.
The Popes on Capitalism
I wonder if Thomas Storck has actually read the encyclicals he references in his replies to various letters (Jul.-Aug., Oct.), or any other encyclicals concerned with social justice or economics. Yes, in talking about capitalism, they warn against individualism and statism, and they plead for business owners and managers to be more concerned with people and their needs than with the bottom line. But in Quadragesimo Anno (1931), which Storck so often cites, Pope Pius XI condemns the two sections of socialism: the more violent one (communism) and the more moderate one. Even though the latter is nonviolent, it often has an element of class warfare or a desire to abolish private property. Even without these elements, Pius XI writes, Socialism cannot be brought into harmony with the dogmas of the Catholic Church. He goes on to say that those who are engaged in production are not forbidden to increase their fortunes in a lawful and just manner.
In Centesimus Annus (1991), Pope St. John Paul II writes that it would appear that the free market is the most efficient instrument for utilizing resources and effectively responding to needs. He shows regard for subsidiarity, which cannot operate with a central bureaucracy or with a welfare state, which he also criticizes.
Raleigh, North Carolina
THOMAS STORCK REPLIES:
Susan Nemetz questions whether Ive actually read the papal social encyclicals I cite. Im not clear why she would say that. Ive written more than once about why Pope Pius XI condemned both forms of socialism in Quadragesimo Anno, and about his cautious approval (with reservations) of the economic programs of moderate socialists and his condemnation of all forms of true socialism for their inherent atheism. The important point he makes is not that the socialist economic program is always entirely wrong but that genuine socialism is inherently atheistic. Pius states that [moderate] Socialism inclines toward and in a certain measure approaches the truths which Christian tradition has always held sacred; for it cannot be denied that its demands at times come very near those that Christian reformers of society justly insist upon (no. 113).
The Pope notes that not all non-communist socialist groups agree on these measures and that some do not reject the class struggle or the abolition of ownership, but only in some degree modify them (no. 116). This latter point may have been what Nemetz was thinking of, but in order to understand Piuss teaching, one must read the entire passage on socialism.
Nemetz also quotes a passage from Centesimus Annus that she considers favorable to free-market economics. This is a complex encyclical, especially in its language and rhetorical approach; its easy to pick and choose passages that distort its overall meaning, which is what I fear Nemetz has done. One can find in it passages that seem to espouse differing points of view, which is why one must pay attention to the entire encyclical, and interpret it in light of the Churchs social tradition. Interested readers can consult my 2001 article What Does Centesimus Annus Really Teach? originally published in The Catholic Faith and currently available online at the website of The Distributist Review, for a discussion of the entire encyclical and its teachings.
On a related note, I was pleased to see Steve Soukups guest column Is Pope Francis a Socialist? (Oct.), in which he cites Adam Smith and Alexis de Tocqueville in support of some of Franciss comments on economic justice comments that have caused some commentators to label the Pope a socialist. While Soukup is quite correct, for Catholics the standard of what we must believe about economic justice is set by the Church, not by Adam Smith or any other fallible human being. My hope is that Soukups column will help spark interest in reading the Churchs social encyclicals as the best means of acquiring a true Catholic understanding of economic justice.
Your New Oxford Note The Fallacy of Faulty Analogy (Oct.) makes excellent points but fails to explain why the comparison of the drive for same-sex marriage with the civil-rights movement is a faulty analogy.
THE ASSOCIATE EDITOR REPLIES:
The fallacy of faulty analogy consists in assuming that because two things are alike in one respect, they are necessarily alike in some other respect. In any valid analogy, two objects (or events, issues, etc.), A and B, are shown to be similar. Then it is argued that since A has property C, so must B also have property C. An analogy fails when the two objects, A and B, are different in a way that affects whether they both have property C.
So, why is, say, de jure racial segregation not analogous to opposition to same-sex marriage? Although both issues are alike in that in both cases groups are being denied something African Americans were being denied the rights of full citizenship and homosexuals are being denied the privilege to marry someone of the same sex the thing being denied is not equivalent. Marriage has never been a civil right guaranteed to citizens by virtue of the U.S. Constitution; it is a privilege granted to a man and a woman qualified under certain conditions to form a lifelong union. We have laws, after all, that prevent siblings and first cousins from marrying, and that prevent predators from forcing minors into a marriage. Discrimination or segregation based on race are offenses against full citizenship and basic human rights not offenses against mere privilege.
Those advocating for same-sex marriage are advocating for the privilege of men to marry men, women to marry women, and, in some extreme cases, brothers to marry brothers, and sisters to marry sisters. Those who advocated for desegregation and opposed racial discrimination during the civil-rights movement were advocating for the legal recognition of a basic human right that already existed. They were not advocating for a privilege that contravenes the laws of nature.
Smile, Youre on Amazon!
For the past several months, I have been using Amazon.coms new Smile site and have assigned the charity donation to the NOR. I want to make sure that the small trickle from my online purchases is making its way from Amazons pocketbook to the NORs.
THE EDITOR REPLIES:
The NOR is now listed as a recognized charity at AmazonSmile. To support the work of the NOR while shopping at the worlds largest online retailer, simply log on to smile.amazon.com using your regular Amazon user name and password, and designate the New Oxford Review as the charity you wish to support. Then, whenever you make a purchase, Amazon will donate half a percent of the sale to the NOR at no extra cost to you. Its an easy and painless way of diverting a small trickle of funds toward the cause of orthodox Catholicism. (Yes, we do actually receive droplets from Amazon.)
Dont forget to click through GoodShop.com when shopping not only at Amazon but at hundreds of other online retailers, after designating the NOR as your charity of choice. The NOR stands to gain even more from these few simple steps, especially during the Christmas shopping season.