Volume > Issue > Letter to the Editor: December 2009

December 2009

Scientism, Captured in Rhyme

God enjoys reducing the leafy limbs of a gigantic tree to a small acorn, and so do I. I read Murray S. Daw’s article “Is Scientism Winning?” (Oct.) with much interest, and found myself scribbling its essence in rhyme:

The scientist thinks the technically possible morally right; / And kneels to his gadget gods he claims give infallible light.

Richard M. Dell'Orfano

San Marcos, California

Catholic Hospitals & State Law

Fr. Regis Scanlon’s article “Abortion Referrals at Catholic Hospitals” (Oct.) discusses the situation at the Caritas Christi Catholic hospitals in Massachusetts where, according to the Boston Globe, the hospitals “will not provide abortion or sterilization.” That’s the good news. Unfortunately, a state law went into effect in 2005 requiring that emergency contraception (viz., Plan B) be provided to women in their fertile years who present themselves at hospital emergency rooms claiming to have been raped. Reports required by this law are confidential, and so the number of rape victims treated this way has not been disclosed.

Fr. Tadeusz Pacholczyk, director of education for the National Catholic Bioethics Center in Philadelphia, was interviewed for an article on emergency contraception in The Anchor (Oct. 30), the Fall River, Mass., diocesan weekly. Fr. Pachol­czyk stressed that women who are sexually assaulted have the right to try to counteract the effects of the attack, but do not have the right to end the life of a child already conceived. In Massachusetts the law forces emergency-room doctors to act without first evaluating the likelihood that the medication administered will achieve its intended purpose. Even if alleged rape cases handled this way only infrequently result in early abortions, the state-imposed protocol is morally unacceptable, and should be vigorously opposed by the Church in Massachusetts.

Charles O. Coudert

Sherborn, Massachusetts

Left, Right, Fascist

Regarding Don Labonte’s letter about fascism and the editor’s reply (Oct.), in his book Communism and the Conscience of the West, Archbishop Fulton Sheen called communism “red fascism,” Hitler’s national socialism “brown fascism,” and Mussolini’s brand of fascism “black fascism.” Fascism, of whatever color, presupposes the supremacy of the group — e.g., a particular race or class or nation — over the individual. In other words, total government is total government.

Perhaps it would be appropriate to call the tendency toward no government “rightism” (or anarchism) and the tendency toward total government “leftism” (or fascism). In that sense, Hitler, Mussolini, and Hideki Tojo were racialist leftists. Lenin, Stalin, and their successors were classist leftists. All were fascists, and all were bad. Practically speaking, then, fascists prevailed in World War II — the “red” fascists. The fascist label was discredited, but the substance remained for another 45 years.

Many point to the six million Jews Hitler killed during his reign but overlook the millions more killed by Lenin and Stalin, et al. We should take care to condemn all forms of fascism consistently.

Albert R. Audet

Hartford, Connecticut

At first glance, the question of whether fascism is right-wing or left-wing might seem to be a semantic quibble. On a deeper level, however, it’s far more.

In response to Don Labonte’s letter, the NOR editor argues — contra Jonah Goldberg in his book Liberal Fascism — that fascists are right-wing, not left-wing: “What primarily distinguishes fascists as being on the Right is their disdain for ‘class struggle’ and its goal of a classless society, one of the Left’s sacred cows….” True, that can be considered a sacred cow of the political Left. But it’s a means, not an end.

The editor touches on a more-sacred cow of the political Left: “the monopolization of political power in the state.” That indeed is a hallmark of the extreme Left. But it too is a means, an expression of something more fundamental: the belief that societies, and ultimately mankind, are perfectible in this world.

The effort to perfect mankind is the end, and it is the sine qua non of true leftists. The body count chalked up by leftists such as Stalin, Mao, and yes, Hitler, was largely in pursuit of that end. Efforts to create Heaven on earth lead to Hell on earth.

Those on the political Right — conservatives — tend to be circumspect. Conservatives know there are no utopias. They know that man is not perfectible in this life.

John Malnack

Omaha, Nebraska

Don Labonte asks whether fascism belongs to the right or left of the political spectrum. The editor of the NOR replied by saying it doesn’t matter much because, at each end, both sides need only turn around and shake hands with each other, as if completing a circle.

That’s not the only way to look at it. A more conventional answer is that right-wingers prefer minimal government, free enterprise, equality of opportunity, an independent media as the best watchdog on government abuses, private education, personalized charity, religious freedom in the monotheistic tradition (no Aztec human sacrifices), sub­sidiarity as the best model for society, local control of politics from the bottom up, and a society based on moral principles (the Natural Law) and free elections. National defense and protection of human life are the only legitimate roles of a national government.

On the Left, all this is reversed. Left-wingers want government from the top down, preferably by an un-elected elite who deem themselves more “competent” to rule than “the masses”; state control of business, beginning with stifling regulations but leading to total state control; state control of education; replacement of private charity with dependency on “welfare” controlled by the central government; use of the media solely for state propaganda; rigged elections that give the illusion of freedom; top-down state control that maximizes separation of the rulers from the people; rule based on a belief that the end justifies the means, with the ruling elite determining both; and most fundamental of all, total suppression of religious belief based on an Almighty God and His Natural Law so there will be no higher authority to challenge the state.

When these two groups of people turn around to face each other, a vast gulf separates them. The closest approximation to these two models for society took place near the end of the 19th century, first with the American Revolution on the right end, followed by the French Revolution on the left end. In the American Declaration of Independence, God is recognized as the ultimate source of authority and the Guarantor of all human rights — rights that take effect at the moment of fertilization, to put it in today’s understanding. In the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, supreme authority is vested in the state, and individuals do not receive state-granted rights until they are born; human beings still in the womb have no rights at all, and no human being has rights that the state cannot revoke at any time for any reason (witness the Reign of Terror and the guillotine in Revolutionary France).

Fascism is inherently on the left side of the spectrum. Soviet communism was merely a continuation and an intensification of czarist despotism, masquerading as a worldwide movement to “free the working class from its chains.” For Lenin, Stalin, and their successors, the writings of Karl Marx were merely cover. They had no intention of establishing his “dictatorship of the proletariat” because they wanted to keep personal power — power enforced by the gulag archipelago.

The gulag is necessary in fascism, with its worship of the fascist dictator (Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, et al.), but theoretically not in communism. Another characteristic of fascism is extreme nationalism. We saw that in Mussolini’s dream of resurrecting the Roman Empire; Hitler’s dream of a Greater German Reich comprised of all the “Aryan” parts of Europe, with Auschwitz for everyone else, beginning with the Jews; and Stalin’s incorporating all the Slavic parts of Europe into Soviet satellites after World War II, including East Germany, which had been Slavic at the time of Charlemagne, and converting Siberia into a gigantic slave labor camp for those who objected. The ideologies of race and class struggle used to justify Aryan supremacy and a Marxist utopia gave a pseudo-scientific “justification” to naked fascist aggression.

The fascistic nationalist aggression of communist Russia is also obvious in communist China, where ethnic minorities in Tibet, Sinkiang, and Manchuria are kept in thralldom by the Han Chinese under the cloak of a communist “workers’ paradise” that depends on slave labor as much as did the Soviet gulag. Long after communism fades away in China, the fascistic suppression of these ethnic minorities will remain, just as in nationalist China before the communists took power.

What we in America need to fear is allowing our country to go down that same fascist road to the guillotine, the gas chamber, and the gulag traveled by France, Germany, and Russia. Bright new signposts are being posted all along that road, all enticing us with alluring promises of a brave new world. The false promises conceal a deadly reality: “Ye shall not surely die; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”

Terence J. Hughes

Orono, Maine

The Lament of Notre Dame Alumni

Kudos to Michael V. McIntire for his insightful guest column “Notre Dame, R.I.P.” (Jul.-Aug.), and to William Soisson for his letter “Par for the Course” (Sept). Both were very moving to this fellow alumnus.

I am gratified that my widowed mother, who sacrificed so much to send me through Notre Dame, was spared from witnessing the univer­sity’s alienation from the Church’s moral teachings.

Robert J. Dewey

Grand Island, New York

I salute you, albeit belatedly, for publishing “The Secularizing of Catholic Universities” by Michael V. McIntire (article, Sept. 2008), and I salute you now for publishing his guest column “Notre Dame, R.I.P.” (Jul.-Aug. 2009), which is a powerful and conclusive sequel to his earlier one.

The terribly sad truth, which McIntire and I and many thousands of other alumni (and thousands who are not alumni) know, is that Notre Dame is, as a Catholic university, dead.

Its death presents the question: Can it rise from its death? The answer, I believe, is yes it can — with a different president and board of trustees. It would be especially wonderful if the Congregation of Holy Cross were to reclaim ownership and governance from the lay board and the secularizing influence that has ruined the place.

T. Gavin King

Claremore, Oklahoma

Ed. Note: It looks like Notre Dame’s “resurrection” has been postponed: The board of trustees re-elected university president Fr. John Jenkins to a second five-year term on October 20. The board praised Fr. Jenkins — with a straight face — for helping to make Notre Dame a place where “the Catholic faith and intellectual tradition are celebrated and lived.” In response, Patrick J. Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, a university watchdog group, said that the board has “once again neglected their responsibility to uphold Notre Dame’s Catholic mission by reelecting a president who has displayed public disrespect for the bishops and has permitted repeated scandals….”

For further analysis of the ongoing Notre Dame scandal, we direct readers’ attention to L. Scott Smith’s article “What Is Happening to Notre Dame?: When Heteronomy & Autonomy Collide” in this issue, as well as to Michael V. McIntire’s review of Notre Dame law professor Charles E. Rice’s new book What Happened to Notre Dame? in this issue.

Bishops' Conferences Under the Microscope?

Apropos of your New Oxford Note “Surprise! Femi-Nuns Find Themselves Under the Microscope” (June) about the Vatican’s investigation into the Leadership Conference of Women Religious: I wonder if the Vatican has ever considered a “doctrinal assessment” of the activities of various bishops’ conferences around the world — especially when it comes to the more dubious decisions to invite speakers who are public dissenters from Church teaching. A recent example was the decision by the Canadian Catholic Bishops Conference to host Dr. Richard R. Gaillardetz as guest speaker at their October plenary session. Gaillardetz’s track record to date includes his strong support for U.S. President Barack Obama, as well as recently delivering the main address at the Minnesota chapter of Call to Action, where he spoke on the topic “Rethinking Hierarchy: Becoming a Community of Conversation.”

Given that a bishops’ conference is an assembly of the “hierarchy,” one is left wondering what is going on these days that a bishops’ conference would see fit to endorse such a presentation.

Jennifer Weber

Edmonton, Alberta

Recover a Unified Voice

Do Catholics really believe that government laws will eliminate abortions? Did government “prohibition” stop alcohol consumption? Have government laws and penalties stopped the use of illegal drugs? The Church is the only answer to moral problems. Church leaders must face this reality. They must teach and preach God’s penalties for engaging in immoral actions, and the rewards He gives those who follow His, His Son’s, and His Church’s teachings.

Many Church leaders have failed to follow Christ’s chosen Church leader, the Pope, and His Church’s authority, the Magisterium. This has caused confusion and the loss of faith among Catholics. The Church no longer speaks with a unified voice on the grave subject of abortion. No wonder Catholics feel free to dissent from this and other Church teachings.

Abortion and other sins cannot be eliminated unless our Church leaders correct their loss of unity. Then abortion and all sinfulness can be effectively addressed. Our Church leaders, not politicians or political parties, hold the answer to the problem of abortion.

Andrew B. Williams

Roach, Missouri

When the Saints Go Marching Up for Communion

I read in a parish bulletin on All Saints’ Day that we are all saints. If this be so, then the distinction between holiness and sin, good and evil, vanishes. In essence, the entire Catholic doctrine of justification disappears.

As Donald J. Malkie observes in his guest column “A Good Act of Contrition” (Oct.), perhaps this thinking has taken hold because everyone at Mass receives Holy Communion. Apparently, no one has any doubts about his own worthiness, state of grace, or right to receive Communion, and all have pristine consciences. It’s a bit difficult to believe, isn’t it? But if we are all saints, then it makes sense.

Matthew F. Terranova

Hackensack, New Jersey

'No Child Left Behind'? Pffft!

The wife of one of my grandsons is finally pregnant, by in vitro fertilization. The question I can’t ask is: How many great-grandchildren did I lose?

J.N. Sayles

Lodi, California

Prison Conversion

Thank you for renewing my scholarship subscription. I’ve learned a great deal from reading the NOR over the past year. I’m Orthodox and have always read a lot of Catholic material, but I was unaware of just how bad things have become in some of the loopier corners of the Church. Modernism has really done its damage.

A friend in here also received a scholarship subscription from you. He grew up Baptist in the Bible Belt but had been inching toward Catholicism for many years. I answered many of his questions and shared books with him, and he was received into the Church last Easter. He is very excited about everything he is learning with your help, and agrees with your more traditional outlook.

We both thank you for your generosity.

Donald Sprinkle

Walton Correctional Institution

DeFuniak Springs, Florida

Teaching the Next Generation

I am a lawyer who retired from my 30-year law practice six short years ago and became a high-school social-studies teacher in the local public-school system. Our public schools have been more or less abandoned by most Anglo parents, so our student population of 159,000 is made up of mostly low-income Latino and African-American children. I have begun introducing my students to writings in the NOR that deal with political/moral issues (abortion, social justice, etc.), and the students have become more and more curious about values and value judgments.

I look forward to the coming issues of your publication.

Peter L. Bargmann

Dallas, Texas

Ed. Note: In light of the preceding two letters, we invite readers to send us the names and addresses of prisoners, school teachers, and others who would benefit from a scholarship subscription to the NOR, and a brief explanation of why they should be considered. Send scholarship nominations to us at: Scholarship Fund, NOR, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley CA 94706-2260.

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