Letters to the Editor: January-February 2023
On Marriage After Death
I would like to clarify some of the misconceptions in Michael V. McIntire’s article “Will There Be Marriage in Heaven?” (Nov.). Our feelings for someone we love can be very strong. Still, they remain what they are — feelings only — and do not necessarily speak to the truth of the matter. Will there be marriage in Heaven? The answer is an unequivocal no.
Upon the death of a spouse, the widow or widower is free to marry again because the prior marriage bond has now ended. This, by itself, proves that the bond of marriage does not carry over into Heaven; otherwise, the Church would not allow a widow or widower to remarry. At the death of a spouse, the surviving spouse ceases to receive the graces of the Sacrament of Matrimony because the marriage has, sadly, come to an end. But, as they do for non-married people, avenues of grace remain for the widowed through the other sacraments, such as the Eucharist, Confession, and Anointing of the Sick.
Earthly relationships do not matter in the eyes of Christ, who said, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt. 12:50). Yes, we will see our loved ones in Heaven; they will remain our mother, father, son, daughter, spouse, brother, or sister, just as Mary will always be the mother of Jesus; and we will never suffer separation from them again. We will join them among the multitude of others in worshiping God, our one and only source of happiness, for all eternity. All other persons who happened to be an intimate part of our lives, regardless of their relationship to us while we lived on Earth, are gifts from God, for whom we should be eternally grateful.
Alphonse C. Bankard III
I tend to be skeptical of attempts to take something Jesus said and explain that it means the opposite. That said, Michael V. McIntire’s point is well made that Jesus’ statement that we will be “like angels” is not absolute. I would like to add a few thoughts.
St. Paul says marriage is an earthly reflection of the relationship between Christ and the Church in Heaven (cf. Eph. 5). I therefore suggest that “no marriage in Heaven” is not a taking away from but a fulfillment of marriage. Marriage on Earth, for all its joy and passion and intensity, is a pale and watery shadow of what will be in Heaven. The primary relationship will be between Christ and the Church, but just as that is reflected in billions of individual marriages here on Earth, it could be reflected in billions of analogous relationships in Heaven. I could easily see the pairing of earthly spouses in the heavenly realm simply because they have grown together. It may just be that the heavenly relationship between earthly spouses is so much richer and deeper that Jesus would not water it down by calling it “marriage.”
John F. Fay
As my wife and I approach 50 years of marriage, I agree with Michael V. McIntire wholeheartedly. The Sadducees’ question to Jesus was legalistic, and Jesus responded accordingly. In Heaven, we will not need the institution of marriage, but the love relationship of marriage (as all true love) is everlasting.
There is a parallel in the Church. In Heaven, we will not need the institution of the Church (parishes, dioceses, etc.), but we know that the Church Triumphant continues and flourishes.
McIntire’s refreshing article reminds us that love prevails.
Dcn. Arthur Powers
Raleigh, North Carolina
Thank you for Michael V. McIntire’s beautiful article about the married state in Heaven. Five years ago, I lost my husband of nearly 48 years. From the time we first met, we shared a beautiful love for each other. I was a cradle Catholic not practicing my faith; my husband was a Baptist. We married in his church. Years later, we had our marriage blessed in the Catholic Church.
After my husband watched me go through a “revert” Catholic experience, he told me he wanted to study to become a Catholic. After his conversion, we were blessed to be able to have an audience with Pope St. John Paul II.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in July 2016. Shortly thereafter, my husband was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. One year and two months later, he passed. We both believed in the resurrection of the dead. He told me that if he preceded me, he would be waiting for me.
When my husband was put on hospice care, he didn’t sleep in the hospital bed. Despite his pain, he would arrange himself in our bed, where we could snuggle and feel each other’s warmth. I remember thinking that was how it would be in Heaven: a love beyond anything I could imagine.
I don’t date or have male acquaintances. I still wear my wedding ring because God gave me one husband and the best husband. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the blessing of being married to someone as wonderful and good as Ronald E. Moore Sr.
Debbie Root Moore
I was impressed by Michael V. McIntire’s research and point of view. I am no theologian and can only share my own point of view. Heaven, for me, will be the fulfillment of all my hopes and dreams — a spiritual fulfillment that, as St. Paul says, “Eye has not seen nor ear heard what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).
God is everywhere around us, and in death we will enter that new dimension where with God we will be in the eternal now enjoying the fullness of His presence with no limitations, which includes being with those we love. So, yes to the question of marriage in Heaven — we will be with those we loved and with whom we prayed.
Fr. Edmond O’Donnell
By dint of study of Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and by his own reasoning, Michael V. McIntire has come to the correct conclusion that, while there will be no marriages occurring in Heaven, the sacramental bond of marriages made on Earth will be preserved. Those who are interested in learning more about the marriage bond and its larger significance for living the Christian life would do well to read Scott Hahn’s book The First Society: The Sacrament of Matrimony and the Restoration of the Social Order (2018).
The visions of the life of Christ experienced by the 18th-century stigmatic German nun Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich add another dimension. I often cite the following passage, from those visions, to friends who have lost a spouse to death. It purports to quote Jesus’ teaching to His disciples during Holy Week: “The disciples had questioned Him upon the reunion after death of friends and married people. Jesus said there was a twofold union in marriage: the union of flesh and blood which death cuts asunder, and they that were so bound would not find themselves together after death; and the union of the soul, which would outlive death. They should not, He continued, be disquieted as to whether they would be alone or together in the other world. They that had been united in union of soul in this life, would form but one body in the next” (The Life of Jesus Christ and Biblical Revelations from the Visions of the Venerable Anne Catherine Emmerich, Vol. 4, 1986; italics added).
In support of Michael V. McIntire’s hope — and faith and charity — concerning marriage in Heaven, a few passages from David Bentley Hart’s book That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell & Universal Salvation (2019) come to mind.
Hart argues that a person is a corporate being, and salvation a corporate beatitude. We are saved not as individuals but as bound in relationship with one another, “by being bound to one another in the sheer contingency of our shared brokenness, and the brokenness of our world, and our responsibility for one another,” Hart writes. He proposes that “there must be some sort of continuity of identity between the soul as it exists during its wanderings in this vale of tears and the soul as it shall be when it is raised up to God. And such continuity is impossible apart from those we love, because we are, as persons, the creatures of our loves.”
Perhaps the central contention in Hart’s meditation is his insistence on some intelligible form of personal continuity, a continuity not just individual but personal. “God could in fact save no persons at all,” he continues. “He could erase each of the elect as whoever they once were by shattering their memories and attachments…and then raise up some other being in each of their places, thus converting the will of each into an idiot bliss stripped of the loves that made him or her this person.” Is Heaven, Hart asks, “the annihilation of everything that ever made us who we were?”
We need not guess at Hart’s answer. We may thus, with renewed hope, look forward to continuing the love we have shared with those dearest to us, as McIntire proposes.
Michael V. McIntire argues that he will be united with his wife in Heaven. Some Scripture scholars may disagree, but as my mentor, the late, great Ralph McInerny, used to say, “Theologians claim that there won’t be marriage in Heaven, but we romantics know better.”
On such matters, two things should give those of us who are romantics hope. The first is the simple fact that God is the source of all goodness; thus, nothing good that we experience in this life could possibly be absent in union with Him. I tell my students, “It’s not like God just didn’t think of something good we have here — as though He might one day look down on Earth and say to Himself, ‘Taco stands! Why didn’t I think of taco stands?’” This is to make the mistake of thinking about the Creator God as though He were like Zeus. He is not. Nothing good can possibly be absent from God.
The second thing that should give us hope is Christ’s bodily resurrection. I argue in my book From Here to Eternity: Reflections on Death, Immortality, and the Resurrection of the Body (Emmaus Press, 2022) that the best clue we have of what is promised for the faithful after death is revealed to us in the resurrected body of Christ. That revelation teaches us that, after death, the faithful are united fully with God and share in His glory. But it also reveals that we do not lose our personal identity.
We should not picture being united with God after death as though we were a drop of water returning to the ocean. When Christ reveals Himself to the disciples in the upper room after the crucifixion, it is still Him. He does not say, “I am the divinity that was hidden inside the man, now liberated from the limitations of the body.” Jesus retains the marks of the crucifixion. He eats with disciples. Mary Magdalene recognizes Him when He calls her name.
Mysteries remain about Christ’s glorified body, but it is still Him. He is bodily present in the upper room, as present as He was before the crucifixion, but His body does not suffer the same limitations of time and space. The doors and windows are locked, but He is still there. Yet He is not a ghost. He can be present as He wills — with Mary at the tomb, with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and in the upper room.
As St. Paul affirms, Christ represents “the first fruits” of what we, too, are promised. The limitations of our current bodily state will not persist. But the connections we have made in this life will. One thing most people fear in death is that they will “lose” their loved ones. The Christian promise of the resurrection of the body and the Communion of Saints is that we do not. One of the great tragedies of people losing their faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist — their belief that He is as present in the Eucharist as He was to the disciples in the upper room — is that they also no longer believe in the continuing “real presence” in our lives of the Communion of Saints, a presence not merely in our memories of them but a true presence of those who are truly and really alive.
We should not think of death as simply shucking off this body and this world and our connections to it so that we can be “free.” St. Francis is no less connected to his friars and to Assisi now, in union with the risen body of Christ and the Communion of Saints, than he was during his life. Indeed, he is more connected to them now, not only next to them but also above and within them; his prayers for them are more direct. So, too, C.S. Lewis was right to believe that he was still connected to his wife, Joy, after her death, as McIntire is right to believe that he is still connected to his wife with an intimacy that can only increase as each of us moves into a further union, a deeper communion with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, an eternal threefold communion of Persons whose reality is communicated to us in no better way than in the loving relationships between two spouses and their children.
Randall B. Smith
Professor of Theology, University of St. Thomas
MICHAEL V. MCINTIRE REPLIES:
I thank those who took the time to respond so meaningfully to my meditation. I wrote it because I was seeking a logical and theological justification for my hope that I will be reunited with my wife in Heaven. I wrote it for people like Debbie Root Moore, who, like me, won’t remove her wedding band. But as the incisive responses from John F. Fay, Dcn. Arthur Powers, Hurd Baruch, and John Lyon demonstrate, there are deeper dimensions to that proposition. Fr. Edmond O’Donnell’s letter reveals that a priest can experience the love of a Spouse perhaps more fully than do married couples. I am especially grateful to Randall B. Smith, not only for the depth and clarity of his response, but also for the support he gives to us romantics.
Alphonse C. Bankard III disagrees that marriage survives death, for two reasons. The first is the erroneous belief that love is primarily an emotion based on feelings rather than truth. Committed love is not an emotion. It is a decision. We love God because we have decided to do so, even if the decision is painful. So too with married love.
Mr. Bankard’s second point is more substantial. Noting that the Church permits a widow or widower to marry a second time, he argues that, therefore, the unity of marriage cannot exist in Heaven. But this conclusion does not follow logically. There are many legitimate and beautiful reasons, both secular and spiritual, for allowing widows and widowers to remarry.
The conflict Bankard presents can be reconciled if one believes that marriage between a man and a woman is pre-ordained, in other words, that God created this specific man with the intent that he marry this specific woman, but with the freedom to decide whether to conform to His will. We all know from experience that there are some marriages that seem to be “made in Heaven,” and some that are otherwise. In such a scenario, although many of these latter marriages may be sacramental and their participants holy and blessed, it is, nevertheless, only those couples who conform to His will who will receive the full measure of sacramental grace on Earth and will be reunited again in Heaven.
Whether such a belief is theologically sound is beyond the scope of my article. But Miriam and I believed it. The unusual manner in which we met, and the many impediments to our courtship and marriage that were so inexplicably removed, precluded any reasonable belief that they were only “coincidences.”
Of course, this explanation is only the subjective, experience-based opinion of an incurable romantic. But I’ll bet Mrs. Moore believes it. Perhaps Dr. Smith does also.
Catholics & Protestants: Indistinguishable?
Regarding Casey Chalk’s column “Are Catholics the New WASPs?” (Revert’s Rostrum, Nov.): I, too, fear that we Catholics have become White Anglo-Saxon Protestants or, at least, are indistinguishable from them. The only difference is our name: Catholic.
Recently, I have been reading Leo Tolstoy’s writings on religion. Though Tolstoy was a deist, he made one point with which I agree: We have lost sight of the basic Christian idea of nonviolence. We Catholics take part in every facet of life here in the United States, including manning those positions that require the most vicious violence: police officers and soldiers.
Moreover, everyday Catholics seem to follow whatever is current, favoring same-sex “marriage,” abortion-on-demand, the death penalty, fewer restrictions on guns, more police, harsher penalties for minor crimes, etc. And it is apparent that Catholic politicians today do not believe that their faith should influence their actions. When Jesus said to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s, He wasn’t talking about politics.
The first Christians were persecuted for their faith, which they actually lived. They shared all things in common, albeit with some disagreements, and recognized one another for their love. In some countries today, Catholics and other Christians are being persecuted and killed for living their faith. We don’t have to worry about that here in the United States as long as we continue our WASPy ways.
It’s time we turned back to what Jesus preached. “Love one another as I have loved you,” He said. He did not fight back when He was persecuted and beaten; He forgave His assailants. He preached a great Sermon on the Mount and expected His followers to live it.
Do non-Christians know us Catholics by our love or by our politics?
I agree with most of the points Casey Chalk makes, but I must take exception to his statements regarding Catholics in political office. The only politician he names specifically is our current president. Joe Biden is not a true Catholic, and he is a hypocrite for claiming to be one.
Technically, I suppose, you are Catholic if you have a baptismal certificate that says so. However, a practical working definition ought to require that you try to live your life in accordance with Church teachings. At that, Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. is a dismal failure. His stances on abortion and sexual deviancy are antithetical to some of the most important tenets of the faith. By actively promoting abortion, even to the point of supporting the efforts of others to bar women from alternatives, he makes himself a traitor to Catholicism. (That the bishop of his diocese has failed to excommunicate and publicly censure him is almost equally scandalous, but that’s a matter for another article in the NOR.)
If Chalk wants to present Catholic politicians in office as examples to support his arguments, the politicians he names should at least be vetted to ensure that their public lives and legislative voting records are in accord with Catholic principles.
CASEY CHALK REPLIES:
Far be it from me to disagree with Joseph Droddy’s exhortation to follow Jesus and prioritize our faith over politics. I am confused, however, regarding his claim implying that serving as a soldier or police officer is antithetical to the Christian life. When the Roman centurion approached Jesus, and even cited his military experience to explain why he could trust Christ at His word, Jesus did not tell him that he must abandon his vocation (cf. Mt. 8:5-13). Moreover, the Catechism of the Catholic Church provides explicit grounds for when a nation may engage in “legitimate defense by military force” (no. 2309).
Anyone familiar with my writing for publications such as The American Conservative knows that I am skeptical of our current U.S. foreign policy — particularly our military actions in the Middle East and South Asia in the past two decades — but that doesn’t negate the legitimate use of arms. Indeed, I wrote a book, The Persecuted, that discusses how U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan aggravated the persecution of Christians in Pakistan.
The same general principle regarding force applies to police: They certainly might abuse their authority, but that they are given such authority is necessary to protect the good of citizens. I presume that if Mr. Droddy or his loved ones were attacked, he would prefer the police intervene and, if necessary, use force.
I also think that if Christ did not want His followers to participate in politics, He would not have His Church issue so many magisterial documents that provide guidance on it, as do Rerum Novarum, Graves de Communi Re, Dignitatis Humanae, Centesimus Annus, and, most recently, Fratelli Tutti. Nor would He have allowed the Church to beatify those whose lives were so deeply enmeshed in politics: St. Margaret of Scotland, St. Louis IX, and St. Thomas More come immediately to mind.
As for Jim Rice’s comment: I only chose Joe Biden as an example of a Catholic serving in public office because he is the most recognizable Catholic to hold that distinction. Sure, many of his political positions (such as on abortion or same-sex marriage) are an embarrassment to the Church he calls his mother. One might even say that Biden could only have become our second Catholic president by effectively repudiating what the Church teaches, thus demonstrating a visible negative manifestation of Catholics’ assimilation into WASP culture.
Thankfully, there are many Catholic politicians who are more faithful to magisterial teaching: Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida are good examples among Republicans; Rep. Dan Lipinski of Illinois was one among Democrats until they effectively threw him out of the party in 2020.
The Bible Is Silent About Contraception
Although Frederick W. Marks’s article “A New Look at the Old Testament” (Oct.) has valuable insights, I disagree with his interpretation of the Bible that contraception, including sterilization, is wrong. The Bible is silent on this issue.
Marks reads too much between the lines of the story of Onan in Deuteronomy. If the biblical authors wanted to be clear on the issue of contraception, they would have been clear.
I am astounded that the Catholic Church is against contraception in this age of global overpopulation. With an excessive number of people and limited natural resources, we are marching further down the road of environmental destruction (climate change, deforestation, species extinction, etc.). I am sure I can find a section in the Bible that praises the earthly goods we have and instructs us to protect these goods and Earth itself. If I were to use Marks’s extravagant logic and likewise read too much between the lines, I could conclude that contraception is acceptable because it is required to protect Earth from overpopulation. But that would be an incorrect interpretation of the Bible. Nor is it correct to conclude from the story of Onan that contraception is wrong. Many Protestant scholars would agree on this point.
FREDERICK W. MARKS REPLIES:
With thanks for Patrick Greaney’s query, I stand by my interpretation.
It makes no sense, in my opinion, to argue that God struck Onan dead merely because he failed to do his brotherly duty. The Jewish penalty for refusal to raise up issue to a deceased brother was extremely mild by comparison with the capital punishment meted out to Onan (cf. Deut. 25:5-6, 8-9). What’s more, I am in good company. Classical Jewish commentators are as one in holding that God struck Onan dead on account of the man’s method of refusal, namely, his calculated wasting of seed (see Brian Harrison’s “Onan’s Real Sin,” This Rock, April 1997; and John F. Kippley’s “The Sin of Onan: Is It Relevant to Contraception?” Homiletic and Pastoral Review, May 2007).
The sin of Onan is probably the strongest biblical proof text for Catholic teaching on contraception. But there are others. Scholars familiar with ancient culture know that contraception, widespread even at the time of Jesus, was euphemistically referred to as “using drugs.” And St. Paul, writing in Greek, prohibits the use of pharmakeia, which translates to “drugs” or “potions” (Gal. 5:20). So does St. John (cf. Rev. 9:21).
One might add that the term “one flesh” used by Our Lord to describe the proper relationship between husband and wife (Mt. 19:6) doesn’t make sense if couples are contracepting. How can there be an artificial barrier between oneself and oneself?
The Church has many reasons, apart from Scripture, for her teaching against contraception. Tradition is important, and at least one Father of the Church has spoken unambiguously. In the words of St. Augustine, “Cruel lust resorts to such extravagant methods as to use poisonous drugs to secure barrenness or, if unsuccessful in this, to destroy the conceived seed.”
There is a belief widely shared by men and women of faith that human life is sacred. If this is true — if human life is indeed sacred — then the act that produces it is sacred as well, and, as such, it must not be adulterated.
One can go further. Contraception, which facilitates fornication and adultery, can be a bone of contention between spouses and sow distrust on the part of the man. It can also turn women into sex objects, put a damper on their sexual desire, and result in barrenness. Finally, when ineffective, contraception can lead to abortion.
Worth mentioning in this connection is a method of birth control known as natural family planning that is Church-approved for couples facing grave problems. It requires continence during the woman’s fertile period, but it is not artificial and avoids all the problems stemming from the use of prophylactics.
Mr. Greaney’s fear of “overpopulation” leaves me puzzled. The term is meaningless for devout Christians and Jews, as well as Muslims and Hindus, who take their faith seriously. All of them regard every child, however disadvantaged, as a gift from God.
On top of this, most of the recent reports indicate population decline, especially among the more affluent nations — to the point where their very existence may be threatened. Russia is offering the equivalent of several months’ salary to women who have more than one child, while Japan now has a whole ministry devoted to the encouragement of population growth. The United States is the only developed country with what the so-called experts regard as a satisfactory replacement rate (2.3 children per family). And this is due, in large part, to the enormous number of illegal immigrants who cross our border every year, and for whom there is plenty of room. The entire population of the world could migrate to the United States, and there would be an acre of land for every home.
Anyone interested in population should read such respected economists as Julian Simon, author of Population Matters: People, Resources, Environment, and Immigration (1990), and Jacqueline Kasun, author of The War Against Population: The Economics and Ideology of World Population Control (1988). Virtually every prediction by doomsayers since the time of Thomas Malthus (1766-1834) has proved false. Paul Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb (1968) stands discredited, as does his later work The Population Explosion (1990).
The world’s supply of natural resources, contrary to expectation, has more than kept up with demand. The price of commodities such as electricity and natural gas has declined over the years. Copper, nickel, chrome, tin, and tungsten are also cheaper than they were, giving the lie to one of Ehrlich’s better-known prophecies. Add to this the fact that many of yesterday’s so-called essential resources, such as whale oil and coal, are no longer essential thanks to a variety of technological breakthroughs. Natural gas alone is estimated to be in large enough supply to last 1,000 to 2,000 years.
Time and again, we have heard from Roman pontiffs that the answer to population pressure is not to turn people away from the table (by means of artificial birth control) but rather to provide more food while making it possible for one parent to remain at home.
According to Kasun, world agricultural resources could support 22 times as many people using our present methods of farming. Africa alone could feed twice the current world population. Hunger, where it exists, affects only about two percent of the world’s people, and it is generally brought on by civil war or hardline Marxist agricultural policies coupled with ineffective distribution.
Synthetic foods, ocean floor farming, solar energy, wind energy, and the coming revolution in transport will work their magic. Scientific research has led to the discovery of greatly superior strains of wheat and rice that have revolutionized food production around the world. Before the utilization of new grains in places like Vietnam, many nations were hard put to meet their domestic needs. Today, these same countries find themselves in the export business. Improvements in well digging, fertilizers, and the use of polyethylene ditch liners played a major role in India’s “Green Revolution,” which caused agricultural land values to soar as much as 600 percent in the space of a few years. The United States, which produces more food than it can consume, has long taken upon itself the task of relieving overseas famine, and there is no limit to what can be accomplished provided there is sufficient capital.
In short, Mr. Greaney can set aside his anxiety about so-called overpopulation. Without exception, the prophets of doom have underestimated the power of human ingenuity when it comes to devising systems capable of sustaining life under the most adverse conditions.
Delete & Don’t Look Back
In his column “’Tis Pity We’re All Whores” (Cultural Counterpoint, Jul.-Aug.), Jason M. Morgan really opens our eyes to many of the fallacies of social media. Like Dr. Morgan, I deleted my Facebook account about six months ago and have never looked back. I got tired of people posting photos of what they were eating for breakfast, or in what bar they were drinking adult beverages, and bloviating about their asinine political opinions. There’s more to life than how many “likes” one gets.
In his reply to the letters regarding his column (Oct.), Morgan mentions “digital Maoism,” a concept he credits to Jaron Lanier. I’d like to take this one step further and recommend Lanier’s book Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now (2018). This is the bible for anyone interested in finding out about the many pitfalls and misconceptions of social media in general, and Facebook in particular. Read it, and you’ll never go on any social media again. Kind of like watching The Lost Weekend starring Ray Milland (1945) or, better yet, reading the book by Charles Jackson on which the movie is based (1944). If you have a problem with alcohol, watch this film or read the book, and you’ll never drink again!
Nick Wineriter, O.F.S.
In Thrall to the New Corporate Sensibilities
We are fortunate to have access to Fr. John A. Perricone’s wisdom, especially as he alerts us to alarming corporate trends and their social implications (“Officers of the New Regime,” guest column, Oct.). The rise of Chief Purpose Officers and Chief Ethics Officers signals a shift in corporate priorities from that of delivering useful products and services to enforcing “woke” sensibilities. While the outsourcing movement in the latter part of the 20th century marked a trend away from the homegrown manufacturing model that brought our country to prosperity, the inculcation of anti-white and gender-ambiguity principles by so-called progressive corporate leaders may be the final end of American leadership in manufacturing and retail. The corporate trends Fr. Perricone exposes are another sad indicator of the erosion of core values at the most influential levels of society.
Fr. Perricone’s views on tolerance are particularly relevant to our immediate family. For us, “the political is indeed the personal.” Loved ones have become comfortable with gender-blurring and same-sex marriage under the guise of love and tolerance while simultaneously deeming those who decline an experimental vaccine, even in the face of employment loss, as selfish murderers.
It seems the same people who virtue-signal on social media and demand freedoms with shouts of “my body, my choice” summarily terminate friendships with those who hold dissenting opinions. We too, sadly, have been canceled by some of our own beloved family members who are in thrall to the new corporate sensibilities.
Brian & Judy Connell
Jersey City, New Jersey
Fr. John A. Perricone rips the façade off the miserable leftist workforce overseers, our 21st-century Gestapos, Nurse Ratchets, and annoying grammar-school monitors rolled into one, who are always admonishing us to stay in line, obey orders, drink our milk, stop laughing, and remain quiet — in essence, to stop enjoying life. Torquemada could have learned a few things from these corporate killjoys.
Bronx, New York
Here in the bluest of blue states and in an archdiocese that has had a firmly entrenched adherence to modernism since Thomas Boland’s episcopal consecration in 1954, Fr. John A. Perricone is often referred to as “the blessed soul who exposes the deceptive world to anyone who gives ear to him” (as Dante described Boethius). Indeed, Fr. Perricone’s guest column contains a jaunty homage to Boethius, who wrote Consolatio Philosophiae while imprisoned before being executed by the Ostrogothic King in 524.
Fr. Perricone gives snapshots of barbarians within the gates — Harassment Officers, Chief Purpose Officers, et al. — who are now laying siege to sanity with Environmental, Social, and Governance investing; Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion policies; and other forms of corporate wokeism. Fr. Perricone marshals, in Boethian manner, wisdom from Sophocles, Chesterton, and Sayers, and he manages to entertain us while assuring us that we are still in our right minds.
Hillsborough, New Jersey
Fr. John A. Perricone identifies a disorienting trend in which corporate leadership positions have been invented seemingly out of whole cloth in order to drive, so it seems, an ideological revolution. He could have added Chief Equity Officer, Chief Diversity Officer, and Chief Transformation Officer to the mix.
Fr. Perricone looks back almost wistfully to a time when business leaders cared more about the “bottom line” than about advancing leftist ideology. Who can blame him? Though he does a great service in pointing out this commercial and social revolution, he misses one of the more interesting themes at play. In essence, corporate leaders have discovered “purpose” and “ethics” after an age of unalloyed pursuit of profit. This discovery itself is not the problem, and I’m afraid that many readers who share Father’s horror will learn the wrong lesson. The problem is the particular ethics and that corporate leaders are stressing.
It was only 132 years ago that Rome spoke clearly on economic and corporate considerations in a rapidly developing world. Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) deplored the singular emphasis on profit by the burgeoning corporate world, and he offered an economic model that fused the political, ethical, and commercial aspects of man. Leo taught that the world of commerce ought to be sanctified, and that our future ought to be one of neither unrestrained capitalism nor thieving socialism. He offered an integrated economic view informed by Catholic social teaching and the dignity of man as worker and provider.
To bring this discussion full circle, I think Leo would have liked the development of a Chief Purpose Officer or Chief Ethics Officer in the commercial realm if — and it’s a big if — those positions were filled by individuals whose purpose and ethics were informed by the principles of Catholic social action.
The death of capitalist amoralism is a positive social development. We should not lament its passing but celebrate it. The fight now is not to strip the corporate world of its newly found interest in social purpose and ethical concerns but to determine what those ethics and purpose ought to be.
As tempting as it may seem, given the crush of leftist ideology in contemporary American corporate life, we should not want to return to the Protestant world of Ebenezer Scrooge as a model of corporate indifference to everything but profit. That world was almost as bad as this one. The time has come for Catholic thinkers to infuse, as it were, commercial and economic life with our purpose and ethics, company by company, and board by board.
To that end, we need the formidable intellects of men like Fr. Perricone focused on a coming Catholic economic age, one that develops and refines what traditional Catholic social action in the economic sphere ought to look like, and we need Catholic business leaders to implement it.
Someone’s ethics and purpose are going to triumph. We cannot expect ours to win if we do not enter the arena. I am certain Fr. Perricone would welcome a Chief Transformation Officer in corporate America if the transformation promised was one infused by a proper understanding of Catholic social action.
Talking Softly & Carrying No Stick
A. James McAdams (letter, Nov.) disagrees with Pieter Vree’s view, as expressed in his column “Neocon Hubris & the Battle for Ukraine” (New Oxford Notebook, Sept.), that Donald Trump’s presidency was an interregnum between the two eras of neoconservative influence in the U.S. government. Furthermore, Prof. McAdams insists, Trump’s “tawdry pandering” to Vladimir Putin played a role in the latter’s invasion of Ukraine. What role this “pandering” played McAdams leaves unstated.
Although the FBI spent millions investigating Trump, they found no ties to Putin. In fact, only when Trump left office did Putin treacherously invade Ukraine. How was the groundwork laid?
Barack Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, vowed to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations in 2009, with Obama instructing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to tell Putin, his successor, “After my election I have more flexibility on missile defense; tell him to give me space.” After his re-election, Obama removed U.S. missiles from Eastern Europe. The rapacious bear, Putin, for his side of the bargain, was patient; then, in 2014, he took Crimea. Obama did nothing about it.
During this time, NATO members relaxed their contributions, and the United States cut military spending. Russia moved back into the Middle East for the first time in 40 years while the United States refused to give weapons to Ukraine. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton permitted the sale of North American uranium to Russian companies, and Bill Clinton was paid $500,000 for a speech in Moscow. Concurrently, Russian companies gave several million dollars to the Clinton Foundation.
When Obama discouraged American oil and gas drilling, prices rose dramatically. Putin cashed in, as this is the main source of Russia’s revenue. By contrast, Trump drove down prices by unleashing U.S. oil production, making America energy independent for the first time ever. This weakened Putin. But Joe Biden has doubled down on Obama’s energy policy while howling from the sidelines that Putin is “a dictator” who “commits genocide” — in other words, “a Hitler,” a pattern of name-calling that Vree catalogs, in all its ignominy (reply to McAdams et al., Nov.). Putin would not have had the money to invade Ukraine if oil prices had remained low.
Trump also increased military spending and made NATO members contribute more to their own defense. He re-established missile defense in Eastern Europe and sold missiles to Ukraine.
In 2013 Obama threatened Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that if he used chemical weapons, the United States would retaliate. Assad did use them, yet Obama did nothing. In 2017 Trump ordered the firing of tomahawk missiles at the Al-Shayrat Air Base, from which banned chemical weapons had been launched against Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime. In 2018 Trump ordered the shelling of 200 Russian mercenaries in Syria who had attacked U.S. forces. Putin did not retaliate.
Obama wanted to lead from behind, seeing America as one among many nations. Neocons and business interests of whatever political stripe — their stripe being dictated by the party in power — crave cheap labor and overseas markets. For them, what’s not to like about talking softly and carrying a small stick? Trump, of course, abhorred such policies.
Saying that Trump’s pandering to Putin played a role in the latter’s invasion of Ukraine is obtuse — and I’m being polite about it. Is it just possible that Putin invaded Ukraine after witnessing Biden’s deadly and costly pullout from Afghanistan, in which the United States abandoned $80 billion worth of equipment, including Bagram Air Base, which is strategically situated behind China’s back door? Could China’s increased harassment of Taiwan also be a consequence of this humiliating retreat, however much the media tries to stuff it down the memory hole?
As for whether Trump should remain in politics: That’s for voters to decide.
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