Tuesday, September 28, 2010

ARCHBISHOP CHAPUT: Life in the late republic: The Catholic role in America after virtue

Archbishop Chaput delivered the following remarks to the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars on Sunday, Sept. 26.

Exactly 70 years ago, in 1940, Father John Courtney Murray gave a series of three college talks. For his theme, he chose the “concept of a Christian culture.” After his death, his Jesuit brothers fused the talks into a single essay called “The Construction of a Christian Culture.”1 It’s a modest word change. But that title – the construction of a Christian culture – is a good place to begin our thoughts this morning.

Most people know Murray for his work on Vatican II’s Decree on Religious Liberty. In his 1960 book We Hold These Truths – which has never gone out of print – Murray argued the classic Catholic case for America. Like any important thinker, his work has friends and critics. The critics respect Murray’s character and intellect. But they also tend to see him as a victim of his own optimism and a voice of American boosterism. I understand why. Over the years, too many people have used Murray to justify too many strange versions of personal conscience and the roles of Church and state.

But for me, Murray’s real genius is tucked inside his words from 1940. They’re worth hearing again. Murray said that “a profound religious truth is at the basis of democratic theory and practice, namely the intrinsic dignity of human nature; the spiritual freedom of the human soul; its equality as a soul with others of its kind; and its superiority to all that does not share its spirituality.”

He said that “the task of constructing a culture is essentially spiritual, for culture has its home in the soul.” As a result, “all man’s cultural effort is at bottom an effort at submission to the truth and the beauty and the good that is outside him, existing in an ordered harmony, whose pattern he must produce within his soul by conformity with it.”

These are beautiful thoughts. They’re also true. The trouble is, they bear little likeness to our real culture in 2010. Murray spoke at a moment when the word “gay” had more connection to joy than to sexual identity; and when the word “truth” could be used without ambivalence or irony. Times have changed.

We’d all quickly get fatigued by a litany of what’s gone strange with America. There’s so much of it: from our consumerism and narcissism; to our sexual dysfunctions and family breakdowns; to our bad schools and moral illiteracy; to what Eric Voegelin called the “intellectual terrorism of institutions [like] the mass media, university departments, foundations and commercial publishing houses.”2 Listing problems and then complaining about them achieves little. And more importantly, as Murray would say, it isn’t a Christian response. If Jesus tells us to be leaven in the world, and to make disciples of all nations – and of course, he does -- then we have missionary obligations. And those duties include the renewal of our country’s best ideals.

But we can’t shape the future unless we know the facts of present-day life. And we can’t understand the present unless we know the past it came from. Reinhold Niebuhr once wrote that “memory is [the] fulcrum of freedom for man in history.” The less we understand the past, “the more do present facts appear in the guise of irrevocable facts of nature.”3

I believe that. And it explains some of the hardships American Catholics will now need to face. There’s a passage in the Old Testament from the Book of Judges. It says that after Joshua led the people across the Jordan and secured the Promised Land, “[Joshua] dismissed the people, [and] the people of Israel went each to his heritance to take possession of the land. And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work which the Lord had done for Israel.” But after Joshua died, “and all that generation were also gathered to their fathers; [then there] arose another generation, after them, who did not know the Lord or the work which he had done for Israel” (2:6-7, 10).

The people of Israel forgot their God because they weren’t taught. And if American Catholics no longer know their faith, or its obligations of discipleship, or its call to mission – then we leaders, parents and teachers have no one to blame but ourselves.

Having said that, let me offer a portrait of our current terrain in very broad strokes.

I grew up in Kansas. And when I began my book Render Unto Caesar in 2006, I had in my mind the America I always knew – or thought I knew. But that America, I admit, has been passing for 50 years, and probably longer. When major Protestant and Catholic scholars – public intellectuals like Robert George and Timothy George, men with national weight – felt in 2009 that a manifesto like the Manhattan Declaration was needed, it affected me.

In its urgency for defending the sanctity of life, the dignity of marriage and the family, and the rights of religious conscience, the Manhattan Declaration came as a caution – for me, and for many other people -- that a certain kind of America no longer exists.

This is ironic. Back in the 1930s, after visiting the United States, the great Lutheran pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote: “American democracy is founded not upon the emancipated man, but, quite the contrary, upon the kingdom of God and limitation of all earthly powers by the sovereignty of God.”4 The great British historian Paul Johnson said much the same – that America was “born Protestant.” And for good reason: America’s earliest settlers were children of the Reformation. The Enlightenment ideas that helped shape America’s foundation were themselves, in part, a product of earlier Christian thought. And Gov. John Winthrop’s historic homily, “A Model of Christian Charity,” given to Puritan colonists before leaving for the New World in 1630, expressed in a moving way the moral vision that has ever since flavored the American experiment. In a sense, America is not really the child of 1776, but of Reformation theologies and their results.

These Protestant roots have given us many good fruits: a culture of personal opportunity and freedom, respect for the individual, religious liberty and reverence for the law. Other effects have been less happy: radical individualism; revivalist politics; a Calvinist hunger for material success as proof of salvation; and a nearly religious sense of national destiny and redemptive mission.

Our Enlightenment roots pose another problem. In America and Britain, the Enlightenment took a form tolerant and even friendly toward religion. In France it turned harsh and anti-religious. But as scholars Peter Gay and Jonathan Israel have separately argued, there was essentially only one Enlightenment in its basic principles. And it was fundamentally anti-religious and specifically anti-Christian.5 If this is true, then the main factor muting Enlightenment prejudice in America has been our tradition of widespread religious belief. And if faith declines, then hostility to religion must rise.

What’s most striking about the American founding, of course, is the absence of any large Catholic role. The different strands in our nation’s early history had one common theme: hostility to the Catholic Church. That prejudice, in one form or another, has continued down to the present day. As a result, Catholics, as Catholic believers, have always been strangers in a strange land.
The American Founders wanted to create a novus ordo saeclorum, “a new order of the ages.” But they had a strong sense of original sin. They also knew that history matters. Man can't be reinvented out of nothing. Nor can he be made perfect by his own devices. So they borrowed heavily from a reliable source: Roman republican forms, law, institutions, architecture and virtues. When friends called Charles Carroll – the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence – an “American Cicero,” it was the highest form of praise. Bradley Birzer notes this, by the way, in his very good new Carroll biography.6 Comparisons between Rome and America therefore make sense.

The differences, of course, are obvious. Rome was always a slave-dependent, agrarian society. It was never a “democracy” in the Athenian or modern American sense, much less an industrial power. But the similarities are also important, starting with structures of law and public life; but also with the fact that success bears the seeds of its own failure, and power corrupts.

As St. Augustine noted in City of God, Roman success was built not just on greed, pride and violence. It also flowed from the early Roman virtues of piety, austerity, courage, justice and self-mastery. For Augustine, these virtues had an unfortunate and self-defeating basis in paganism. But in their natural effects, they were wholesome -- so long as the Romans actually practiced them. All of these Roman virtues were revered in the thinking of the American Founders.

As with Rome, the fruits of American power now surround us. But success has always its cost in personal and national illusions. As a people, we seem to become more foreign to our origins every year. The quality of education is declining. So is religious practice. Mediating institutions are diminishing. The size of government is growing. So is public and personal debt. Government and economic structures often seem remote and complex. The realities of American life – as the late Christopher Lasch argued -- have created “a culture of narcissism” that seems to foster anxiety, self-absorption and dependency.

Augustine’s view of Rome can have an unpleasantly modern ring: He wrote that “[The pagans] are nowise concerned that the republic be less depraved and licentious. Only let it remain undefeated, they say, only let it flourish and abound in resources; let it be glorious by its victories, or still better, secure in peace; and what matters it to us? This is our concern: that every man be able to increase his wealth so as to supply his daily prodigalities.”7

Of course, American politics has always been messy. This isn’t new. It’s the nature of ordered liberty. But in the long run, a healthy civic life depends on permanent virtues rooted in nature’s God, not “values” developed by ourselves. To their credit, nearly all of the Founders saw government as grounded in a divine authority greater than citizens themselves.

St. Augustine believed that political action and public service could be worthy Christian paths, so long asthey’re guided by the Christian virtues of faith, hope and charity, and a humble awareness of human limits. So it would be bracing to imagine his thoughts about America in 2010 – a nation where politics often seems dominated by market research, judicial activism, the ascendency of positive law, lobbying, the vast expense of campaigning, simplified messaging, the complexity of government structures, party tribalism, and a dumbing down of the electorate.

American democracy needs an intelligent, reasoning citizenry; persons with free will and the maturity to use it. Yet American students now often fail to compete in global comparisons because of failures in public education. As Daniel Boorstin warned almost 50 years ago, technological changes in our mass media – in the ways we deliver information -- have had other, unintended consequences. Technology has modified the tools and the “language” of our public discourse, and therefore the way Americans think, feel and act. To put it another way, America was created and sustained by a print culture. It’s really not clear how well its institutions and traditions can survive in an electronic, image-oriented technologically transformed world.8

These issues are compounded by declines in attention span and popular print literacy, the centralization of media ownership, rising costs and the need for profit, less time and resources available to journalists, and the drift away from professional skill and ideological detachment in newsrooms. As a result, many citizens experience reality from inside a media cocoon of entertainment and simplified news, while vital information and context go unreported.

Now, I've offered you a hard portrait for a beautiful Sunday morning. But I think we serve the truth bytelling the truth as best we can. Sunday is the day we celebrate the Risen Christ, the real source of our freedom and joy. Christian faith in the Risen Jesus converted an empire. It changed the course of history and gave meaning to an entire civilization. And in the Risen Christ, I believe God is now calling us, starting with those of us here today, to do the same.

The integration of faith and reason in Western culture has ensured its humanity and genius. America’s welcome of religious faith among its people has been the key to its decency and vitality. But we need to remember Leszek Kolakowski’s warning that the words of the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” are not at all self-evident to the modern intellectual world.9 We also need to remember J.L. Talmon’s caution that democracy too can become “totalitarian.”10

The inquisitors of today's developed societies are secular, not religious. The real enemies of human freedom, greatness, imagination, art, hope, culture and conscience are those who attack religious belief, not believers. Real hope -- not empty optimism but the virtue of hope; the virtue Georges Bernanos called “despair, overcome” -- is impossible without faith in realities unseen. Unbelief – whether deliberate and ideological, or lazy and pragmatic – is the state religion of the modern world. The fruit of that orthodoxy is a compression and destruction of the human spirit, and a society without higher purpose. This is the logic of the choices that America is already making. But they can be unmade. And they can be redeemed.

I want to close today by going back to John Courtney Murray. As I said earlier, Murray is sometimes seen as being too high on America; too na├»ve about its flaws; too grand about its possibilities. And he truly did love the best ideals of our country, because those ideals are worthy of honor. But in “The Construction of a Christian Culture,” he also said this:
“American culture, as it exists, is actually the quintessence of all that is decadent in the culture of the Western Christian world. It would seem to be erected on the triple denial that has corrupted Christian culture at its roots, the denial of metaphysical reality, the primacy of the spiritual over the material, of the social over the individual . . . Its most striking characteristic is its profound materialism . . . It has given citizens everything to live for and nothing to die for. And its achievement may be summed up thus: It has gained a continent and lost its own soul.”

In the same text he says, “in view of the fact that American culture is built on the negation of all that Christianity stands for, it would seem that our first step toward the construction of a Christian culture should be the destruction of the existing one. In the presence of a Frankenstein, one does not reach for baptismal water, but for a bludgeon.”

He wrote those words seven decades ago. We can only guess what he might write today.

For Murray, there is no real “humanism” without the cross of Jesus Christ. And dismantling the inhuman parody we call “modern American culture” begins not with violence but with the conversion of our own hearts. This is the only kind of revolution that lasts; the only kind with the power to change everything. The problem in American Catholic life is not a lack of money or resources or personnel or social influence. These things can be important. But they are never fundamental.

The central problem in constructing a Christian culture is our lack of faith and the cowardice it produces. We need to admit this. And then we need to submit ourselves to a path of repentance and change, and unselfish witness to others. The reality of life in the late years of the American republic is that “we have sought first the kingdom of earth,” as Murray said, “and we begin to discover that in the process, millions upon millions have been disinherited from both the kingdom of earth and the Kingdom of God.”

The role of Catholics in America is exactly the opposite of what we've been doing for half a century or more – compromising too cheaply, assimilating, fitting in, fleeing from who we really are as believers; and in the process, being bleached out and digested by the culture we were sent to make holy.

C.S. Lewis once famously said that Christianity is a “fighting religion.”11 He didn’t mean a religion of violence. He meant that Christianity is a religion of candor in naming good and evil; zeal in advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and courage in struggling against sin. Your task as Catholic scholars in the years ahead is to strengthen that spirit in each other -- and to instill it in the students, colleagues and all the people you reach with the extraordinary skills God has given you. If you do only that, but do it well, then God will do the rest.

Murray said, “Only when our dwelling is in the heavens can we hope to fulfill our vocation on earth . . . If we do not understand the world and why it was made, what right have we to meddle with it? If we do not know that man is made in the image of God, how dare we . . . attempt to fashion his life?”

The construction of a Christian culture begins by lifting our own hearts up to God, without plans or reservations, and letting Him begin the work. It sounds like a small thing. It is a small thing. But as Christians know better than anyone, worlds and empires can turn on the smallest yes.

Thanks and God bless you.
________________________________________

Endnotes:
1. John Courtney Murray, S.J., “The Construction of a Christian Culture”, 1940;http://woodstock.georgetown.edu/library/Murray/1940A.htm
2. Eric Voegelin, “Why Philosophize? To Recapture Reality!”; The Collected Works of Eric Voegelin, Volume 34: Autobiographical Reflections; University of Missouri Press, Columbia, MO, 2006; 119
3. Reinhold Niebuhr, Faith and History; Charles Scribner and Sons, New York, 1949; 19
4. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics; Macmillan, New York, 1978; 104; text also appears in his collected writings No Rusty Swords
5. See Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment, 2001, and Enlightenment Contested, 2006; Peter Gay,The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism, revised edition, 1995
6. See Bradley J. Birzer, American Cicero: The Life of Charles Carroll; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Wilmington, DE, 2010
7. Augustine, City of God, Book 2
8. See Daniel Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America; Vintage, New York, 1992; originally published 1961
9. Leszek Kolakowski, Modernity on Endless Trial; University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1990; 146
10. See J.L. Talmon, The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy; W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1970
11. C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity

ARCHBISHOP CHAPUT: Life in the late republic: The Catholic role in America after virtue
Retrieved September 27, 2010 from http://www.archden.org/index.cfm/ID/4571

Friday, September 24, 2010

“I felt as if I had been given my country back”

In this post from the excellent blog MercatorNet, Joanna Bogle describes exactly how I feel about the pope's visit to the UK and why it was so important to me.

Joanna Bogle | Tuesday, 21 September 2010
“I felt as if I had been given my country back”
We have been given another vision of Britain – brighter and more interesting.





It was all joy. There had been such muddles over the complex ticketing arrangements, and such hostility from sections of the mass media, and such horrible things said by campaigners opposed to the Church’s teachings, and such tragedy over the evil actions of priests who had betrayed their calling.

But now, here was Pope Benedict, arriving at Edinburgh airport and standing next to the Queen for the national anthem.

Pope Benedict is small. And quiet. His voice and manner is that of a gentle, kindly professor, with a warm smile and large intelligent eyes. Long years in public view have trained him in the art of maintaining stillness and dignity while speeches are made and greetings are exchanged, but he still doesn’t look quite at home with military bands and official formality; he walked nicely along the guard of honour but was much smaller than all of them. Things got more relaxed when he was sitting chatting with the Queen (she is small, too) and the Duke of Edinburgh, and everything positively erupted into joy when he cheerfully donned a tartan scarf and went out into the city.

He has a rapport with the young – not unexpected in one who spent years teaching them at universities – and a gentle pastoral style with children. People held up babies to be blessed, waved flags and banners of welcome, and called out greetings – and when he celebrated the first Mass of his visit, at Bellahouston Park, before a vast crowd, with everyone roaring out glorious hymns, the style of the visit was established.

Why were we led to believe that this was a nasty, cruel, ranting figure of hate? People who had never met Joseph Ratzinger, who hadn’t read his books, who knew very little about him, repeated one another’s myths and legends – even though the internet makes available masses of material, videos, books, reports, interviews, and more. When he arrived in Britain, the reality became clear: this is a man who long ago placed his entire life at the service of Christ, and has, down all those years, tried faithfully to imitate Him and to live according to His teachings. And it shows.

I was privileged to be invited to Westminster Hall, where, in an extraordinary moment of British history, the Pope was to address Members of Parliament and a great gathering of men and women in public life from across Britain. These walls have echoed to the great events of British history – notably the trial of St Thomas More, who in this place was condemned to death for refusing to follow a king’s rebellion against papal authority, adhering to God and conscience instead. And now, here was a pope arriving – heralded by trumpeters standing in the arches of the great glowing window of stained glass.

The band of the Coldstream Guards played as we waited seated on gilt chairs set in long rows on the ancient stone flags, above us the great hammerbeam roof, and on either side the old grey walls with their Norman arches. A line of former prime ministers awaited his Holiness, along with the Speaker of the House of Commons who would introduce him. He came with the Archbishop of Canterbury from an ecumenical Vespers in Westminster Abbey, another first for a pope.

He arrived looking small and polite, and there were handshakes and pleasantries. And then came his speech. The voice, low and quiet, with its fizzy accent and precise vowels, takes a moment to assimilate: this is no passionate orator. But he had us spellbound. He drew attention to the central issues of our day – the big questions: by what values do we live? How on earth do we decide? Does it matter what is right and wrong? Have we anything by which we can make decisions and judgements? Are we spiritual and cultural orphans, adrift with nothing to guide us?

With clarity, and delicate precision, this priest who represents an authority dating back in an unbroken line across two millennia, spelt out what Western man knows but has forgotten: we cannot live as though religion does not exist, we cannot live without truth. Man has to use his mind, he has to open himself to what is good and true and beautiful. Attempts to marginalise faith – including Christianity – impoverish all and rob human beings of their dignity. Parliamentary democracy – a gift from Britain to the world, and a heritage of which British people should be proud – did not arise in a spiritual vacuum, and will not flourish in one.

I felt as if I had been given my country back again. For too long we have been told that our ancestors, with their assumptions about God and man’s unique destiny, were ignorant and muddled, and that now we must shake off the nonsense passed on to us. Morality as previously known was dangerous; it could now be reinvented by television pundits and if we were smart we would not challenge their views.

Now, sitting in Westminster Hall, I heard all this challenged, and new and much more interesting vistas opened up: of course we must be allowed to think along large lines, to lift our minds to things that are great and noble, to ponder the things of God, and to connect these with our public life, our common life and the search for the common good.

The Pope was not asking for the Church to have a privileged position, not seeking the reinvention of a Church-dominated society; on the contrary, he was inviting us all to a national conversation, a way of living and serving one another in a country where there are people of many faiths and none, and where the place of faith is recognised and enjoyed and honoured for the contribution it can make and the good fruits it brings.

He was applauded all the way down the aisle – where he stopped to view the plaque that commemorates Thomas More – and afterwards the glorious bells of Westminster Abbey pealed out as people milled about in a wonderful traffic-free area, savouring London in a new way.

Whatever you think about the Pope, there has to be an admission that he wasn’t what most people had expected, and his message was timely.

I expect we’ll ignore it. We have become used to dismissing matters of religion (“Oh, it’s all rubbish”; “Causes more trouble than it’s worth” etc) and we find it easier to sludge along with our culture soaked in TV soap operas and rising crime figures and drunken teenagers hanging around bleak shopping centres shouting at one another on Saturday nights. But we would be stupid to do this. We have been given another vision of Britain – brighter, more interesting , and one that we know is realistic, honest, and attractive. It echoes with our common sense and our desire to get along with one another in a workable way and achieve things. It carries resonance from the best of our past and offers a way forward.

Please, don’t let us marginalise faith in God, or ignore what Christianity offers, or sneer at the possibility that men and women can know about the deepest and greatest things. Perhaps it shouldn’t have had to take a Pope to tell us this. But he has done so, and it is a wake-up call. Often, elderly gentle clergy with quiet wisdom do say wise things.

Joanna Bogle writes from London.

Retrieved September 24, 2010 from http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/i_felt_as_if_i_had_been_given_my_country_back/

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Michael Sandel, Debating Same-Sex Marriage

Here is Episode 12 of Sandel's extraordinary course on Justice at Harvard.

http://www.justiceharvard.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49&Itemid=20

See also his book Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?


or DVD

Sandel presents a critique of two perspectives on justice--utilitarian and "freedom of choice"--both libertarian and Rawlsian liberal-egalitarian versions. In their place he argues for a variant of Aristotelian virtue ethics--justice involves cultivating virtue and reasoning about the common good.

Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions - interview



The interview is a discussion of Sowell's book, A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Benedict in Britain

Benedict in Britain: personal triumph for the Pope, humiliation for secular fanatics

By Damian Thompson


There are so many things to say about this remarkably successful papal visit that I can’t fit them into one blog post. But if I had to produce an immediate response it would be delight that Pope Benedict is no longer a stranger to the British people. They know him now; their curiosity has been aroused by his powerful message and their hearts warmed by his perfect manners and grandfatherly little grin. David Cameron has just made this clear in his speech at the airport: we have heard you, he told the Pontiff, adding that “you have challenged the whole country to sit up and think”.

Consider the failure of the “Protest the Pope” stunt yesterday. On a sunny afternoon, in a city of 10 million people, a crowd of fewer than 10,000 protestors followed the anti-Catholic bandwagon. Richard Dawkins, Johann Hari, Stephen Fry et al may regard that as a good result, but if (at most) one Londoner in a thousand takes to the streets to register disapproval at the use of their taxes to host the Pope, then I’d say the secularists have misjudged the public mood, wouldn’t you? And look at what a thin demographic sliver of the population they represented: mostly white, middle-class, metropolitan. (Needless to say, none of them could be bothered to make the trek up to Birmingham: the Pope may be the atheists’ Antichrist, but you mustn’t let your principles get in the way of a lazy Sunday morning cappuccino.)

Compare the protestors to the Catholics in Hyde Park: old Polish ladies, tweedy gents from the shires, African hospital cleaners, self-consciously cool teenagers, Filipino checkout assistants and, as one of my friends put it, “some rather tarty-looking traveller women who’d obviously had a glass or two”. They don’t call it the Catholic Church for nothing: if not a universal cross-section of humanity, it was a damn sight closer to it than the humanist smugfest.

I’ve just watched Pope Benedict leaving Oscott College and being photographed with the police officers who guarded him. None of them made an attempt to arrest him. What incredible prats Dawkins, Hitchens and Roberston made of themselves with that plan, which was based on false reporting and wilful misunderstanding of the Pope’s involvement in child abuse cases. The British people certainly aren’t in a mood to let the Church off the hook on that subject, and nor should they; but they do now understand that Benedict XVI feels deep shame at those dreadful crimes, and from now on they will be less receptive to the lie that he covered them up.

As for the ridiculous Nazi slur, today they heard a German Pope congratulate us for fighting the evil ideology of Hitler. What more does he have to say? Nothing, I suspect: the papal visit has killed the myth of the “Nazi Pope” outside a tiny circle of professional Pope-baiters who from now on may find themselves marginalised even in secular liberal circles.

Remarkably, the success of Benedict’s visit has had an effect even among the ranks of his ideological opponents. Lots of liberals are quietly distancing themselves from the Romophobes (and I wouldn’t be surprised if Stephen Fry slightly regrets wading in). The truth is that after months of increasingly shrill rhetoric from Dawkins, Hitchens and Hari, the anti-Pope movement delivered nothing except a medium-sized bog standard demo.

Retrieved September 19, 2010 from http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100054282/benedict-in-britain-personal-triumph-for-the-pope-humiliation-for-secular-fanatics/

Britain's Shame

The extraordinary display of anti-Catholic bigotry that the Pope's visit to England and Scotland occasioned is very different from the anti-Catholicism of the KKK or the Know-Nothing-Party of earlier times in the U.S. It is even different from the rhetoric of hard-core Protestant Rev. Ian Paisley of Northern Ireland, though it uses the same imagery and often sounds just the same and though Paisley did put in his own anti-papist two cents' worth.

The religious intolerance and hate have come instead from the "progressive" cultural elite, from the leading media of press and television and from celebrity academics and film stars. The extraordinary level of ignorance and intolerance expressed by these leftist leaders has to be seen to be believed. Peter Tatchell, leader of a campaign against the Pope's visit, was invited--invited!--by Channel 4 to make a supposedly factual documentary that attacked the Pope in the most dishonest and scurrilous way imaginable--see my earlier post. The Independent newspaper published a column by Tatchell about Pope Benedict, every single assertion of which was false, as any competent fact-checker could easily have discovered.

Such shrill and shameless religious intolerance requires an explanation in its own right, not simply endless rebuttal of the bogus charges that continue regardless of fact, civility, or decency. Some atheists and leftists of integrity, to their lasting credit, have protested against this display of intolerance--notably in the Spiked blog--see Frank Furedi's column at http://www.frankfuredi.com/index.php/site/article/405/ and Kevin Rooney's at http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/article/9355/. But the best account I have read so far of this crusade of religious intolerance against the pope and the Catholic Church is by Rory Fitzgerald and posted (or re-posted?) by Huffington Post, and again below.

The picture it paints of British society in moral, cultural, and spiritual decline is not pretty. But the hypocrisy, cowardice, and intolerance of the spokespeople of the dominant secular orthodoxy are well described here, confirmed by the scores of hostile comments to the blog that simply confirm Fitzgerald's analysis...and beautifully rebuked by the popular enthusiasm of the masses of the Catholic faithful, and especially the youth, despite all the efforts of the bigots to undermine and discredit Pope Benedict and his visit, the first ever state visit by a pope to Britain.



Rory Fitzgerald
Irish journalist www.freemansjournal.net
Posted: September 17, 2010 06:25 AM

The Pope's UK Visit: "Aggressive Secularists" Are Making Britain an Intolerant, Bigoted Nation (Again)

Virulent anti-Catholicism is alive and well in modern Britain. It is particularly interesting to watch this spectacle of hatred from the neighbouring island to the west -- one which has felt first-hand the depth of British hatred of Catholicism for many centuries.

There was rabid anti-Catholicism in Cromwell's massacres of thousands of innocent Irish people in the 1600s. There was anti-Catholicism in the British authorities who subjected millions of Irish and Scots to dispossession, death, disease and oppression in their own countries throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

There was anti-Catholicism in the British troops who fired over the head of my grandmother when, as a 6-year-old, she hid from them in the hedgerows on her way to school. It seethed in the British soldiers who burned my home city of Cork to the ground in 1920. More recently, it lurked in the Paratroopers who shot dead 13 innocent Catholic civil rights marchers in Derry in 1972.
For a while it seemed that this old hostility had expired, but the shrieking intensity of anti-Catholic hatred in recent months has shown that it was merely resting: however, nowadays it is the politically incorrect left that stokes the fires of the old anti-Catholic hatred.

Its resurgence has troubled even prominent UK-based atheists like Padraig Reidy, who recently wrote in the Observer that "Catholicism is viewed with suspicion by significant sections of the British left" and traces the present vitriol back to these ancient hatreds.

Brendan O'Neill of Spiked, says "the campaigning against [the pope's] visit has become so shrill that soon only dogs will be able to hear it. And the great irony of this allegedly rationalist protest against the pope is that it is indulging in precisely the kind of demonology that the Catholic Church once excelled at. Campaigners have turned Benedict into a Satan for secularists, an Antichrist for atheists, against whom they desperately hope to define and advertise their own moral integrity."

Indeed, I cannot think of an instance in modern European history where any nation was so convulsed by vitriolic hatred of a particular religion since the Nuremburg Rallies, which themselves have recently featured nightly on the BBC: no news item on the pope is complete without a sinister soundtrack and archive footage of goose-stepping Nazis. Yet this media hostility comes not from the old establishment right: It emerges solely from the secular left.

Much of it stems from plain cowardice: The fact is that radical Islam, not Catholicism, is the big religious problem that British society faces, but most commentators are afraid of their lives, quite literally, to speak out against its tenets; and so they treat the Catholic Church as a punch bag for their repressed hostility toward Islam. This was made clear in Polly Toynbee's recent column for the Guardian where she bizarrely conflated Catholicism and Islam. Hence too Richard Dawkins' comment that Catholicism is the world's "second most evil religion."

The pope has praised Britain's record of tolerance, yet as the Irish Times noted recently: "in practice, that has been extended to Catholics only in the last century and a half." However, the Irish Times is being far too generous with history: In Northern Ireland, a part of the UK, such prejudice and institutionalised state-sponsored discrimination continued unabated until at least the 1970s.

A cursory glance at the British leftwing press, which would normally pride itself on its tolerance in matters ethnic, shows extreme intolerance of a Church which dares to contradict its secular creed. However, it is not at all difficult to tolerate a person with merely a different skin tone. The real test of tolerance comes when you meet people with different ideas. In this, the British leftwing media has utterly failed the test of its tolerance of others' views.

The Catholic Church's hierarchy has given plenty of good reasons to criticise it, but in Britain, many of its critics' motivations now go far beyond a fair-minded exploration of its faults, and far beyond the anger most Catholics share at the abuse cover up. They also completely fail distinguish between the hierarchy and the 1 billion plus people who really comprise the Church.

The real issue at stake goes to the great existential and philosophical split of our times: between those who believe in the spiritual and those who don't; and those who believe in an objective morality and those who think right and wrong are relative, negotiable and arbitrary. Let's call this latter view the "secular orthodoxy," (the eminently sensible Henry Porter of the Observer, an atheist, refers to it critically using this term.)

This morally relativistic secular orthodoxy is by far the dominant ideology in Britain and in much of its media. The pope's stated aim is to take on this moral relativism and its exponents appear to have decided that ad hominem attacks on "God's Rottweiler" are the best way forward.

There are real moral debates to be had, especially around issues of homosexuality and married priests, but at some level of their being, the people who lead the cheers for the secular orthodoxy fear that their dream of a secular utopia is doomed - perhaps because in Britain it is now clear that it has already failed.

Some of the criticism of the Church is fair-minded and based in fact. However, others have more sinister agendas. Some exponents of the secular orthodoxy often frame their criticism of the Church along these lines: "I just love children, justice and human rights so much that I feel I simply must speak out against this nasty Church".

However, a deeper look at those who shout loudest often shows a dark hypocrisy: Peter Tatchell's recent hour-long attack on the Pope and the Church on British television was, he claimed, founded upon his concern for children. Yet he campaigns for it to be made legal for 14-year-olds to have sex with adults. Worse, in 1997, Mr. Tatchell wrote a letter to the Guardian defending an academic book about "Boy-Love" saying that the book's arguments were "courageous." He said "several of my friends - gay and straight, male and female - had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13."

Did he report this to the police? No, instead he contends that "it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy."

Nine years old.

Or witness the comments by prominent agony-aunt and former nurse Claire Rayner that, "I have no language with which to adequately describe Joseph Alois Ratzinger. In all my years as a campaigner I have never felt such animus against any individual as I do against this creature....The only thing to do is to get rid of him."

This prompted speculation as to whether by "get rid of him" she meant "kill him". Ms. Rayner has in the past recommended that Down's syndrome children be killed before birth. Perhaps it is the pope's opposition to such eugenicist policies that irks her: In fact, in 1941 one of the pope's cousins, who had Down's syndrome, was murdered in the Nazis' "euthanasia" campaign.

Yet "anti-pedophiles" who want to legalize child sex and members of the "caring profession" who want to eradicate people with Down's syndrome are typical enough of the thinkers that inform a great deal of the criticism of Catholicism in modern Britain.

We all know that Church has been deeply flawed and it has done wrong. We all know about the recent scandals; however the anti-Catholic hysteria that has enveloped Britain is not motivated by that. The recent abuse scandals serve merely as an excuse for militant secularists to open the floodgates for an ancient national hatred, and to air the shrieking grievances of multiple activists and fringe groups with radical and often-dark agendas.

Brendan O'Neill, a compelling humanist-atheist writer, says: "These pope-protesters threaten to drain the last drop of decency from old-fashioned humanism, turning a once-principled outlook into little more than a requirement to hate religion... Today it is a powerful sense of lack within modern-day so-called humanist circles - a feeling of directionless and soullessness - that leads them to invent religious demons against which they might posture and pontificate. That is why they talk in such religious tones (ironically) about the Catholic Church's 'clinging and systematic evil that is beyond the power of exorcism to dispel' -- because this is about cynically cobbling together some sense of their own goodness and mission. And in the irony to end all ironies, they make use of the very religious tools that secularists once hoped to supersede with reason -- intolerance, fear-stoking, demonology -- as part of their self-serving campaign."

As well as this sense of "lack" there is also perhaps a sneaking sense of shame behind much of the anti-Catholic sniping:

For one of the sad truths about modern British society is that it is falling to pieces: It has amongst the highest European rates of divorce, single parenthood, teenage pregnancies, abortion, alcohol and drug abuse, sexually transmitted diseases and violent crime.

All this stems from Britain's abandonment of its shared heritage, values and community - the ineffable loss summed up in Prime Minister Cameron's phrase, "the broken society".

Only 50 years ago Britain was widely admired as one of the most gentle, civilised, safe and harmonious societies in the world. This civilisation was underpinned and sustained by the very Christian-derived values that the anti-Catholic commentators now so viciously attack and mock. The secularist experiment in Britain has failed: It has become a chaotic, fragmented, decadent nation that increasingly resembles Rome after the fall.

In their bones, many British people I have spoken to feel that a shadow has passed over their country in recent years. They mourn deeply for what it once was. There is something indefinable in the British air these days: a sense of tension, fear, unease and foreboding.

Much of my family is British and I am deeply fond of the country. It is saddening to see it in mired in such social and spiritual turmoil. Its society has broken in to bickering ethnic, religious and ideological factions. Some quarter million of its citizens flee every year (mainly those who can afford to). They, by choice, are emigrating to America, Australia, Canada, Italy, France, Ireland and Spain - places where some basic sense of shared values, (which Catholicism in many ways represents) remains a part of the social fabric.

Perhaps the pope, for all his faults, uncomfortably reminds Britain's aggressive secularists of the values that once held their nation together. In doing so, they are reminded of what they have lost, and that their society is now falling apart before their very eyes.
Maybe that's why they hate him so much.

Or maybe it's just because he's a German. Either way, the anti-Catholic hatred of recent weeks shows that the idea of Britain as a truly tolerant nation is dead and buried: Britain's "aggressive secularists" have killed it.

Retrieved September 18, 2010 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rory-fitzgerald/the-popes-uk-visit-aggres_b_720595.html

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Treat Us Like Lesbians!

I had wondered what happened to the Burden sisters, the elderly English couple who had devoted their lives to taking care of family members and then each other. They loved each other, lived in financial interdependence in the same house. But they were not having sex and were not eligible for marriage or a recognized Civil Partnership under English law. As a result the survivor faced heavy inheritance taxes on the death of her sister that would result in the loss of her home. Had they been a lesbian couple in a civil partnership, they would receive the same relief from the full force of the inheritance (death) tax as a married couple.

The case, which they lost on their final appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, is sad and appalling. It is manifestly a grave injustice.

It also raises interesting questions about legal recognition of same-sex partnerships as marriage or marriage-equivalents. Marriage has been recognized in all, or nearly all societies as socially approved sexual intercourse between a man and a woman such that any children resulting from that union would belong legally, morally, socially, and emotionally to the two parents who made them. Marriage, the main topic of the earliest legal codes long before churches became involved, was a legal development with the aim of creating fatherhood as a legal and social role for the protection of the man's children and their mother.

Marriage was fundamentally about sex--specifically a kind of sexual act that is in principle capable of generating children. Marriage was consummated by that act and could be annulled, both in canon and civil law, where one of the parties had refused or proved physically incapable of performing the act in question.

Christianity insisted that a valid marriage must be willingly entered into on both sides, and recognized the "unitive" as well as the "procreative" aspects of the marital act. Marriage did not depend for its validity on the couple's capacity or willingness to produce children, i.e., on their fertility. But the institution of marriage was everywhere defined in terms of the coupling, the one-flesh union of a man and a woman, the kind of sexual act, that is, that is in principle (per se if not per accidens) apt for generation.

When marriage is redefined as being about the feelings--the love and commitment--of two people, rather than about the kind of sex that produces children and about the needs of the children who result from it, its whole rationale seems to fall apart.

Why is the state interested in the feelings or the sexual practices of two people where such practices are by their very nature incapable of producing children?

If marriage is defined by the feelings--the love and commitment of the two people involved--who decides the quality of those feelings? Traditionally, a marriage is valid if entered into voluntarily by both man and woman and consummated by sexual intercourse. Of course the state does not supervise the marital act to assure the validity of the marriage, but normally assumes it where the couple cohabit. The point is that the marriage is not defined or validated by the purity of the couple's feelings for each other. Many marriages involve mixed feelings and impure motives--Charles and Diana come to mind, as well as marriages in which wealth, status, or beauty play a prominent role--but none of that invalidates the marriage.

Often, we hear the argument from advocates of same-sex marriage (SSM) to the effect that being too old for fertility or childbearing upon marriage does not invalidate the marriage. No, because the marriage is not defined by the fertility of the couple but by their commitment to a sexual relationship in which the defining marital act is of the kind that in principle is capable of producing children. SSM, in contrast, rests upon a sexual relationship that is by its very nature incapable of being generative, regardless of the circumstances of a particular couple.

But if the place of potentially generative sex is taken by feelings, what about "marriages" in which the feelings are mixed and motives less than pure? What or who determines the validity of the marriage?

Is sex still essential to the definition of marriage? If so, what kind of sexual act must be performed by the couple before the marriage can be said to have been consummated and be valid in law?

If it is not essential to marriage and the legal and social benefits thereof, why should couples who are not in a sexual relationship be excluded?

In this regard, Hawaii's reciprocal beneficiaries law seems much fairer and more sensible than same-sex marriage or its equivalents. Here, any couple may register as reciprocal beneficiaries so long as both are adults and are barred legally from marriage. They must only be over 18 and prohibited by law from marrying--such as brother and sister, uncle and niece, aunt and nephew, widowed mother and her unmarried son, and two persons of the same sex. The Burden sisters would be eligible to register under it here.

In either case, it is not clear what the logic is for restricting marriage or its equivalent to two persons if marriage is now about feelings and commitment and not sex and the children that result from it. Why should a polyamorous group committed to sex in a long-term relationship be excluded from marriage, regardless of the members' sex or number?

It seems very clear that same-sex marriage, though it may directly affect very small numbers, fundamentally changes the nature of marriage as a social institution, in particular as the institution through which children are the responsibility of the two parents who made them and through which one generation sacrifices for the next. Instead of being about children's needs and rights, it is redefined as about the desires and freedoms of adults. Marriage has been our most pro-child institution, the most important protective factor in offsetting the risks faced by poor families and communities. Its collapse and hence the collapse of fatherhood as a social role, in poor, and especially Black, communities has been devastating. (See Kay Hymowitz and also James T. Patterson)

I have often heard advocates of SSM ask how their marriage would affect mine, but like jesting Pilate, they do not wait for an answer.


If like me, you wondered what happened to the sad case of the Burden sisters, here is the answer:


April 30, 2008
Sisters Joyce and Sybil Burden lose legal appeal over death duties
Frances Gibb, Legal Editor

Two elderly sisters fighting for the same rights as married and gay couples have lost a final legal appeal for equal treatment.

In a 15-2 vote, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that Joyce and Sybil Burden, who have lived together all their lives, do not face unfair discrimination under Britain’s inheritance tax rules.

Joyce, 90, and Sybil, 82, have been fighting for 32 years to avoid crippling inheritance tax on their £900,000 home in Marlborough, Wiltshire, when one of them dies.

They claimed that tax laws breached their human rights by exempting married and gay couples from paying inheritance tax, but not cohabiting siblings.

But the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights upheld an earlier human rights ruling yesterday that national governments were entitled to some discretion when deciding taxation arrangements.

The decision means that when one of the sisters dies the other will have to sell their four-bedroom property to pay the 40 per cent inheritance tax on its value above £300,000. If they had won their case, inheritance tax law would have had to change, to place cohabiting couples on an equal footing with married couples and “civil partnerships” in being exempt from inheritance tax.

The sisters have written to the chancellor of the day before every Budget since 1976, pleading for recognition under the tax rules as a cohabiting couple.

When the Civil Partnership Act of 2004 first recognised gay and lesbian couples for inheritance tax purposes, the sisters turned to the European Court of Human Rights, claiming that the Act violated articles of the European Convention on Human Rights outlawing discrimination and guaranteeing the “protection of property”.

In 2006 the Burdens lost the case by a 4-3 majority of the panel of seven human rights judges, although three members of the court described their inheritance tax plight as “awful” and “particularly striking”.

But the appeal hearing, before a larger 17-member panel of human rights judges, produced a more decisive 15-2 majority against the sisters yesterday. The ruling marks the end of the sisters’ legal fight, but they vowed to continue lobbying Parliament on the issue after their “bitter disappointment”.

They said in a statement issued by their lawyers: “We are still struggling to understand why two single sisters in their old age, whose only crime was to choose to stay single and look after their parents and two aunts to the end, should find themselves in such a position in the UK in the 21st century. We certainly do not regret our decision to look after our family for a single moment; we were glad to repay them for the happy, good, Christian upbringing they gave us.”
“But we have been fighting for 32 years just to gain the same rights, as regards inheritance tax, as married couples and couples in civil partnerships.”

After losing the first case in 2006, Joyce Burden commented: “If we were lesbians we would have all the rights in the world. But we are sisters, and it seems we have no rights at all.”

Retrieved September 17, 2010 from http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article3837715.ece

Thyer on Social Justice

Bruce Thyer is Professor and former Dean of the College of Social Work at Florida State University, and also founding and continuing editor of the journal Research on Social Work Practice. It is not surprising then that a leader in social work education would write an article on one of social work’s “core values,” social justice.

What is surprising is that a social work leader of such distinction would subtitle his article, “A Conservative Perspective.” See Thyer, B.A. (2010), Social justice: A conservative perspective, Journal of Comparative Social Welfare, 26(2-3), pp.261-274.

The liberal consensus
Conservatives, at least professing ones, are rare in social work and especially in the profession’s higher reaches—a feature, along with secularism, that distinguishes them from their clients and much of the general public. Thyer makes the case that social work professes in its own standards an openness to diversity and opposition to discrimination on the basis of political perspectives. Yet he cites recent cases where students were allegedly required to advocate for liberal causes they opposed, as well as the National Association of Scholars (2007) study, the title of which speaks for itself: The scandal of social work education. He also quotes another social work educator, Fred Newdom (2003), as making the following pronouncement: “If you accept that social workers have an obligation to advance social justice and that political engagement is a means to accomplish that end, then you have to accept that we reject conservative political thought and conservative politicians” (p.3).

No wonder social work education is a scandal! It is a profession licensed in one form or another by most states and mostly funded via taxpayer money, and yet in this view excludes a large part of the political spectrum from membership. Fortunately, Newdom’s exclusionist line is not the official position of NASW or CSWE, as Thyer documents.

But Thyer argues for more than reluctant toleration of conservative social workers and their positions. His argument is that a conservative perspective offers promise of a more socially just practice than the dominant liberal orientation.

The article is a welcome addition to the social work literature, in particular to the assigned readings for my foundation social policy class. It is the only such reading I have found in recent times that argues a conservative perspective in social work and social welfare. Even relatively factual textbooks in social welfare policy have a strong liberal bias. For example, DiNitto’s Social welfare: Politics and public policy—as good a social work policy text as I have found—takes for granted a liberal perspective on controverted issues of the day.

For example she uses terms like “gay rights” that assume the point at issue, whether “sexual orientation” confers rights, especially the right to marriage. Hitherto no-one has been either included or excluded from marriage on the basis of their sexual preferences or desires. Marriage always has been understood as socially approved sexual intercourse between a man and a woman such that any children resulting from such sexual activity are legally, socially, and emotionally tied to the two parents who made them—and nothing to do with whatever sexual desires or proclivities the partners may harbor. So a fundamental redefinition of our most pro-child institution is presented as a matter of diversity and (adult) gay rights.

Similarly, in discussing the deep divide over abortion in the country, DiNitto calls the two positions anti-abortion and pro-choice. She could have called them, as they call themselves, pro-life and pro-choice, or more accurately, pro-abortion and pro-life. After all someone who supports an adult’s choice to own slaves (on the grounds that the owner thinks they are not full human beings) is not pro-choice, but pro-slavery.

So Thyer’s article is a welcome challenge to the mindless consensus, the group- think, which prevails in social work. For an instructor, it provides that valuable stimulus to disagreement that requires students to examine and articulate their assumptions and easy dismissals of minority perspectives in social work.

The two faces of liberalism
At the same time, for a policy teacher, it poses the pedagogical problem of the two faces of liberalism. Thyer’s perspective, though conservative by current understandings, is a good expression of the liberal political philosophy on which the republic was founded. It is the liberalism of liberty, natural rights, and the rule of law that stood opposed to tyrannical sovereigns, noble privilege, and arbitrary power. The rights espoused by the Constitution, as Thyer says, are all negative rights, rights to be free and secure in one’s person and property vis a vis the state. It is the liberalism of laissez faire, of the belief that that government governs best which governs least.

The liberalism of the American founders was aimed at limiting state power by separating the powers, branches, and levels of government, and separating church and state so that all were free to worship publicly without state interference or favoritism toward one particular denomination. But it was not a relativistic or subjective liberalism in which the individual is atomized or morality a matter of opinion. The rights embraced by the new state were rooted in an understanding of Natural Law, of Nature and Nature’s God. It rested in the conviction that there is a truth, that human beings can know it, and that their well-being lies in finding and living in accord with it.

The founders also recognized that the kind of democratic republic they were establishing required citizens able and willing to deliberate together about the common good—it required the civic virtues. It was, then, a very different liberalism from that of two and a quarter centuries later, one which saw the establishment of a secular liberalism or liberal secularism. The new liberalism increasingly pushed God and religion out of the public square, substituted vacuous values talk for the virtues, and tended to relativism and principled indifferentism in matters of faith and morals.

This modernist, secular liberalism inverts much of the liberal perspective on which the republic was founded. It looks not to the voluntary association that Tocqueville noted as such a distinctive feature of American democracy, nor to Burke’s “little platoons” or Berger and Neuhaus’s “mediating structures”—the rich civic society that mediated between state and individual. On the contrary, it increased state power and intrusiveness in just those areas of life, protecting the individual from family, neighborhood, church, and community. The rights espoused by modern liberalism are not guarantees against state interference, but claims on the state for resources funded by others, the taxpayer or Forgotten Man as William Graham Sumner called this donor of coerced charity. It is a liberalism of ever-expanding state control, of the collectivist authoritarian impulse that criminalizes perspectives other than the politically correct secular-liberal orthodoxy. (See Robert P. George's Clash Of Orthodoxies: Law Religion & Morality In Crisis .)

Thyer’s conservatism is not that of the ancien regime, of an organic, hierarchical, traditional society, either European or “indigenous.” It is closer to the economic individualism that fought those old orders from the 17th to 19th centuries, to the political philosophy of liberalism that finds expression in the U.S. Constitution.

But that liberalism understood natural rights as rooted in a Natural Law established by God but discoverable by human beings whom God had endowed with the reason needed to discover their real nature and their common good. Because rooted in Natural Law, these rights are prior to political entities and justify the alteration or abolition of such regimes if necessary to secure those rights. Absent such grounding in the real nature of human beings in relation to their Creator, however, such rights are built on sand.

As Pope Benedict just said in his magnificent address at Westminster Hall in London, “If the moral principles underpinning the democratic process are themselves determined by nothing more solid than social consensus, then the fragility of the process becomes all too evident – herein lies the real challenge for democracy.” Absent such grounding, we may add, the core social work value of respect for the dignity and worth of the individual human being—a concept rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of humans as created in the image and likeness of God—evaporates. It is relativized to exclude the most vulnerable among us—those of us in the womb, severely disabled, in severe pain or depression, or comatose.

The shift in the nature of liberalism—a liberalism that is the shared heritage of both “liberals” and “conservatives” in the U.S.—poses particular challenges for the teaching of social welfare history and policy development. How did social welfare ideology and legal theory adapt liberalism to accommodate the expanding role of the state as provider and funder of social work and social services? The best account I have read is James Leiby’s (1985) “The moral foundations of social welfare and social work: A historical view” – in Social Work, 30(4), pp.323-330. Leiby describes the progression from the religious duty of charity as a matter of personal and social responsibility to the role of natural rights rooted in the Natural Law, the police power that provided the legal basis for an expansion of state power, and ultimately to the notion of an individual “right” as a claim that a “needy person could make and enforce on a public agency and official. Enter the ‘welfare state’” (p.326).

An important part of the story, sometimes minimized, is the role of liberal thinking in opposing help for the needy, not only because it is ineffective—that was the criticism to which the Charity Organization Societies sought to respond and it is a major part of Thyer’s critique of modern social work and social welfare. But other critics, who also sought to marshal science for the improvement of the human condition and who also condemned charity, public and private, as unscientific, were the liberal eugenicists like Margaret Sanger. Her complaint in the chapter of The pivot of civilization on “The cruelty of charity” was not that charity was ineffective, but the reverse. Following in the footsteps of Herbert Spencer, she appealed to the “science” of Social Darwinism to argue that charity was enabling the unfit, the weeds of society, to survive instead of to die off.

There is here a remarkable similarity to the economic liberalism of Scrooge in the early pages of Dickens’s A Christmas carol, where Scrooge fends off two gentlemen who appeal to him for a charitable donation at Christmas time. Like modern liberals, he prefers leaving the needy to the tender mercies of the state’s provision, which he supports through his taxes, to dipping directly into his own pocket. (See Brooks, Who really cares?)

In social work discourse, social justice often means the welfare state, as it does for modern liberal political theorist Brian Barry. The great virtue of Thyer’s intervention is that he challenges an all too smugly and consensually “liberal” profession to think again.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Well said! The Case for Marriage - NR editorial

SEPTEMBER 7, 2010 4:00 A.M.

The Case for Marriage
From the Sep. 20, 2010, issue of NR.

If it is true, as we are constantly told, that American law will soon redefine marriage to accommodate same-sex partnerships, the proximate cause for this development will not be that public opinion favors it, although it appears to be moving in that direction. It will be that the most influential Americans, particularly those in law and the media, have been coming increasingly to regard opposition to same-sex marriage as irrational at best and bigoted at worst. They therefore dismiss expressions of that opposition, even when voiced by a majority in a progressive state, as illegitimate. Judges who believe that same-sex marriage is obviously just and right can easily find ways to read their views into constitutions, to the applause of the like-minded.

The emerging elite consensus in favor of same-sex marriage has an element of self-delusion about it. It denies that same-sex marriage would work a radical change in American law or society, insisting to the contrary that within a few years of its triumph everyone will wonder what all the fuss was about. But its simultaneous insistence that opponents are the moral equivalent of the white supremacists of yesteryear belies these bland assurances. Our tolerance for racism is quite limited: The government, while it generally respects the relevant constitutional limits, is active in the cause of marginalizing racists and eradicating racist beliefs and behaviors. Moreover, social sanctions against racism, both overt and implied, are robust. If our society is truly to regard opposition to same-sex marriage as equivalent to racism, it will have to undergo change both dramatic and extensive. Churches that object, for example, will have to be put in the same cultural position as Bob Jones University was in the days when it banned interracial dating, until they too join the consensus.

If proponents of same-sex marriage thought through these implications, their confidence might evaporate, for it seems highly unlikely that this project will succeed at all, and impossible that it will do so without decades of arduous and divisive social “reform.” That is no reason to shrink from the task, if it is truly a just one. But we should first consider whether the historic and cross-cultural understanding of marriage as the union of a man and a woman really has so little to be said for it.

We think that there is quite a bit to be said for it: that it is true, vitally true. But it is a truth so long accepted that it is no longer well understood. Both the fact that we are debating same-sex marriage and the way that debate has progressed suggest that many of us have lost sight of why marriage exists in the first place as a social institution and a matter of public policy. One prominent supporter of same-sex marriage says that the purpose of marriage is to express and safeguard an emotional union of adults; another says that its purpose is to make it more likely that people will have others to give them care in sickness and old age.

So at the risk of awkwardness, we must talk about the facts of life. It is true that marriage is, in part, an emotional union, and it is also true that spouses often take care of each other and thereby reduce the caregiving burden on other people. But neither of these truths is the fundamental reason for marriage. The reason marriage exists is that the sexual intercourse of men and women regularly produces children. If it did not produce children, neither society nor the government would have much reason, let alone a valid reason, to regulate people’s emotional unions. (The government does not regulate non-marital friendships, no matter how intense they are.) If mutual caregiving were the purpose of marriage, there would be no reason to exclude adult incestuous unions from marriage. What the institution and policy of marriage aims to regulate is sex, not love or commitment. These days, marriage regulates sex (to the extent it does regulate it) in a wholly non-coercive manner, sex outside of marriage no longer being a crime.

Marriage exists, in other words, to solve a problem that arises from sex between men and women but not from sex between partners of the same gender: what to do about its generativity. It has always been the union of a man and a woman (even in polygamous marriages in which a spouse has a marriage with each of two or more persons of the opposite sex) for the same reason that there are two sexes: It takes one of each type in our species to perform the act that produces children. That does not mean that marriage is worthwhile only insofar as it yields children. (The law has never taken that view.) But the institution is oriented toward child-rearing. (The law has taken exactly that view.) What a healthy marriage culture does is encourage adults to arrange their lives so that as many children as possible are raised and nurtured by their biological parents in a common household.

That is also what a sound law of marriage does. Although it is still a radical position without much purchase in public opinion, one increasingly hears the opinion that government should get out of the marriage business: Let individuals make whatever contracts they want, and receive the blessing of whatever church agrees to give it, but confine the government’s role to enforcing contracts. This policy is not so much unwise as it is impossible. The government cannot simply declare itself uninterested in the welfare of children. Nor can it leave it to prearranged contract to determine who will have responsibility for raising children. (It’s not as though people can be expected to work out potential custody arrangements every time they have sex; and any such contracts would look disturbingly like provisions for ownership of a commodity.)

When a marriage involving children breaks down, or a marriage culture weakens, government has to get more involved, not less. Courts may well end up deciding on which days of the month each parent will see a child. We have already gone some distance in separating marriage and state, in a sense: The law no longer ties rights and responsibilities over children to marriage, does little to support a marriage culture, and in some ways subsidizes non-marriage. In consequence government must involve itself more directly in caring for children than it did under the old marriage regime — with worse results.

Thoughtful proponents of same-sex marriage raise three objections to this conception of marriage. The first is that law and society have always let infertile couples marry; why not treat same-sex couples the same way? The question can be tackled philosophically or practically. The philosophical answer boils down to the observation that it is mating that gives marriage its orientation toward children. An infertile couple can mate even if it cannot procreate. Two men or two women literally cannot mate. To put it another way: A child fulfills the marital relationship by revealing what it is, a complete union, including a biological union. A man and a woman who unite biologically may or may not have children depending on factors beyond their control; a same-sex couple cannot thus unite.

The practical problems with using fertility as a criterion for marriage should be obvious. Some couples that believe themselves to be infertile (or even intend not to have children) end up having children. Government could not filter out those marriage applicants who are certain not to be able to have children without extreme intrusiveness. Note that we do not generally expect the eligibility criteria and purposes of marriage to exhibit a rigorous fitness in other respects. This is true about those aspects of marriage about which proponents and opponents of same-sex marriage alike agree. Nobody believes that people should have to persuade the government that they really are capable of a deep emotional union or that they are likely to stick around to take care of an ill partner before getting legally married, because that would be absurd. Nobody would try to devise a test to bar couples with no intention of practicing sexual exclusivity from getting married. It does not follow that marriage is therefore pointless or has nothing to do with monogamy, emotional union, or caregiving. (Those are indeed goods that marriage advances; but if sex did not make children, they would not be a reason to have the institution of marriage.)

The second objection proponents of same-sex marriage raise is that the idea that marriage is importantly linked to procreation is outdated. In our law and culture, the ties between sex, marriage, and child-rearing have been getting weaker thanks to contraception, divorce and remarriage, artificial reproduction, and the rise of single motherhood. Yet those ties still exist. Pregnancy still prompts some couples to get married. People are more likely to ask nosy questions about whether and when children are coming to couples that have gotten married. And we have not at all outgrown the need to channel adult sexual behavior in ways conducive to the well-being of children: The rising percentage of children who are not being raised by their parents, and the negative outcomes associated with this trend, suggest that this need is as urgent as ever. Our culture already lays too much stress on marriage as an emotional union of adults and too little on it as the right environment for children. Same-sex marriage would not only sever the tie between marriage and procreation; it would, at least in our present cultural circumstances, place the law behind the proposition that believing that tie should exist is bigoted.

The third objection is that it is unfair to same-sex couples to tie marriage to procreation, as the traditional conception of marriage does. Harm, if any, to the feelings of same-sex couples is unintentional: Marriage, and its tie to procreation, did not arise as a way of slighting them. (In the tradition we are defending, the conviction that marriage is the union of a man and a woman is logically prior to any judgment about the morality of homosexual relationships.)

And does marriage really need to be redefined? The legal “benefits” of marriage — such as the right to pay extra taxes, and to go through a legal process to sever the relationship? — are overstated. Almost all the benefits that the law still grants could easily be extended to unmarried couples, including same-sex couples, without redefining marriage. The campaign for same-sex marriage is primarily motivated by one specific benefit: the symbolic statement by the government that committed same-sex relationships are equivalent to marriages. But with respect to the purposes of marriages, they’re not equivalent; and so this psychic benefit cannot be granted without telling a lie about what marriage is and why a society and legal system should recognize and support it.

Same-sex marriage is often likened to interracial marriage, which the law once proscribed. But the reason governments refused to recognize (and evencriminalized) interracial marriages was not that they did not believe that such marriages were possible; it is that they wanted to discourage them from happening, in the interests of white supremacy. Sexual complementarity is a legitimate condition of marriage because of the institution’s orientation toward children; racial homogeneity has nothing to do with that orientation. Laws against interracial marriage thus violated the right to form an actual marriage in a way that laws defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman do not violate it. The argument about what the equal rights of all citizens entail for marriage laws turns, in other words, on what marriage is. If marriage just is by its nature oriented toward procreation, the refusal to redefine it to accommodate same-sex partners unjustly discriminates against them no more than the military does against the flat-footed.

Same-sex marriage would introduce a new, less justifiable distinction into the law. This new version of marriage would exclude pairs of people who qualify for it in every way except for their lack of a sexual relationship. Elderly brothers who take care of each other; two friends who share a house and bills and even help raise a child after one loses a spouse: Why shouldn’t their relationships, too, be recognized by the government? The traditional conception of marriage holds that however valuable those relationships may be, the fact that they are not oriented toward procreation makes them non-marital. (Note that this is true even if those relationships involve caring for children: We do not treat a grandmother and widowed daughter raising a child together as married because their relationship is not part of an institution oriented toward procreation.) On what possible basis can the revisionists’ conception of marriage justify discriminating against couples simply because they do not have sex?

How, for that matter, can it justify discriminating against groups of more than two involved in overlapping sexual relationships? The argument that same-sex marriage cannot be justified without also, in principle, justifying polygamy and polyamory infuriates many advocates of the former. There is, however, no good answer to the charge; and the arguments and especially the rhetoric of same-sex marriage proponents clearly apply with equal force to polygamy and polyamory. How does it affect your marriage if two women decide to wed? goes the question from same-sex marriage advocates; you don’t have to enter a same-sex union yourself. They might just as accurately be told that they would still be free to have two-person marriages if other people wed in groups.

We cannot say with any confidence that legal recognition of same-sex marriage would cause infidelity or illegitimacy to increase; we can say that it would make the countervailing norms, and the public policy of marriage itself, incoherent. The symbolic message of inclusion for same-sex couples — in an institution that makes no sense for them — would be coupled with another message: that marriage is about the desires of adults rather than the interests of children.

It may be that the conventional wisdom is correct, and legal recognition of same-sex marriage really is our inevitable future. Perhaps it will even become an unquestioned policy and all who resisted it will be universally seen as bigots. We doubt it, but cannot exclude the possibility. If our understanding of marriage changes in this way, so much the worse for the future.

Retrieved September 9, 2010 from http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/print/245649

The Bigotry of the UK's Channel 4

There is nothing surprising about the fact that Peter Tatchell, a gay rights activist and sometime advocate of man-boy sex* hates the Church and the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. What is or ought to be extraordinary, as Thompson says, is his complete lack of integrity and Channel 4’s complete failure to use its research capacity to correct any of Tatchell’s lies and distortions—ones that anyone with a nodding acquaintance with the Church and its doctrines would know to be false.

What is also striking is the blatant bias in Channel 4's religion coverage, pandering sycophancy toward Islam and Islamists, while promoting the worst kind of anti-Christian, and specifically anti-Catholic bigotry and hate.

*Prof Gilbert Herdt points to the Sambia tribe of Papua New Guinea, where all young boys have sex with older warriors as part of their initiation into manhood. Far from being harmed, Prof Herdt says the boys grow up to be happy, well-adjusted husbands and fathers.

The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy.

Tatchell, before the clergy abuse scandal, in a 1997 letter to the Guardian. He still favors lowering the age of consent in Britain from 16 to 14.
###



Peter Tatchell's Channel 4 hatchet job on the Pope is so crude that it misses its target

By Damian Thompson Last updated: September 8th, 2010

Peter Tatchell’s Channel 4 documentary about Pope Benedict XVI, The Trouble with The Pope, scheduled to be broadcast next Monday, begins with an incredibly dirty trick.

Within seconds of introducing Benedict as the leader of the Catholic Church, the film switches into the testimony of a woman describing a sexual assault by a British priest decades ago, before Ratzinger was even a bishop. “He was slobbering all over me … I felt something inside me.” It’s a vile juxtaposition whose subliminal message verges on incitement to religious hatred.

Another cheap trick: right at the start, the voice of a young German man is heard asking, “Do I want to be part of a Church in which people deny the Holocaust?” As it happens, I think revoking the excommunication of Richard Williamson was an act of shockingly stupid naivety. But to imply subtly that this suspended bishop’s views on the Holocaust are acceptable to Pope Benedict is a smear tactic, plain and simple. (There is a major world religion in which Holocaust denial is extremely popular, but don’t expect a TV documentary on that any time soon.)

I know that Tatchell profoundly disagrees with Catholic teaching. Fair enough. But I also thought he had enough integrity not to misrepresent key concepts such as papal infallibility, which he implies means that no decision of the Pope can be questioned – a schoolboy error. Tatchell also claims that the Pope’s previous role as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith gave him control over Church doctrines. That last statement is so ignorant that I could hardly believe I was hearing it. Did Channel 4 not employ any researchers for this project?

Throughout the film, Tatchell twists the truth again and again. “To this day, Richard Williamson remains a member of the Catholic Church approved by the Pope,” he says. I’m sorry, but a bishop who is barred from exercising his episcopal orders is not approved by the Pope. If a crazed Marxist bishop were similarly suspended, he would be presented by Channel 4 as a persecuted martyr, not “approved”.

“The Pope has done enormous damage to his moral authority,” says Tatchell. I think the Williamson blunder did do damage, yes – but Tatchell’s own slender claims to moral authority (and he has campaigned bravely for his causes) are also damaged by a film that doggedly misleads its audience.

The teachings of the Catholic Church on sexual morality are NOT innovations of Joseph Ratzinger. He inherited them, he is faithful to them, and even if he wished to permit artificial birth control, abortion or extra-marital sexual acts he could not do so. Tatchell finds Catholic doctrines in these areas to be “incomprehensible”. But there is no evidence that he has made any attempt to understand them – or, for that matter, the subtle and complex theology of Ratzinger. (Tatchell sniffily describes the Pope’s thinking as “black and white,” which suggests to me that he hasn’t read a single book by the man he is supposed to be profiling.)

Instead, Tatchell mostly interviews people who share his views, or represent those of a liberal lobby within the Catholic Church. One of the few exceptions is a woman called Fiona O’Reilly from the mainstream group Catholic Voices, who – alone among Tatchell’s interviewees – is not allowed to finish her sentences without being interrupted.

And clerical sex abuse? The charge that Benedict XVI covered up the crimes of paedophile priests falls apart under close examination. Journalists have tried very hard to implicate this Pope in conspiracies to silence victims; they have failed to do so, though we do now know that Pope John Paul II was not nearly attentive enough to the scandal. But that doesn’t fit Tatchell’s script, so after a perfunctory attempt to suggest that Benedict “has form” in this area we move swiftly on.

It is inconceivable that Channel 4 would have sanctioned such a poorly researched hatchet job on, for example, a Muslim leader. Still, I can’t say that The Trouble with The Pope left me feeling any more anxious about the Pope’s visit than I already am. A more nuanced, imaginative and accurate programme could have done real damage. You missed a trick there, Peter.

Retrieved September 9, 2010 from http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100052875/peter-tatchells-channel-4-hatchet-job-on-the-pope-is-so-crude-that-it-misses-its-target/#disqus_thread

Saturday, September 4, 2010

All in the Family

See the roundup of recent academic studies on marriage and the family at the National Affairs blog:

http://www.nationalaffairs.com/blog/detail/findings-a-daily-roundup/all-in-the-family

The Generation That Can't Move On Up: Marriage, Religion, & Blue Collar Blues

This article by Andrew Cherlin, author of The Marriage Go Round and Bradford Wilcox, author of Soft Patriarchs, New Men and a recent article on "The Evolution of Divorce" in the first issue of National Affairs, Fall 2009, available at http://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-evolution-of-divorce, offers a counterpoint to the "very appalling book" by Cahn & Carbone reviewed in the previous post.

Wall Street Journal September 2, 2010

The Generation That Can't Move On Up

By ANDREW J. CHERLIN and W. BRADFORD WILCOX

Most people assume that working-class members of the baby-boomer generation have been hurt the most by the outsourcing and automation in which millions of factory jobs moved overseas or disappeared into computer chips, a shift recently compounded by recession. But actually it may be their children's generation.

Not only are many members of the younger working class unprepared for the contemporary job market. New research we have done shows their striking inability to fit the middle-class ideal in family and religious life. It's a worrisome development for their lifestyle and our culture.

These are the people we used to call "blue collar," although you can no longer tell a person's social class by the color of his shirt. If we can speak of a working class at all, education is now the best way to define them.

Think of people with high school degrees but not four-year college degrees. They make up slightly more than half of all Americans between the ages of 25 and 44; old enough to have completed their schooling but young enough to be still having children, and 79% of them are white. Because they don't have the educational credentials to get most middle-class professional and managerial jobs, their earnings have sunk toward the wages of the working poor.

The grim employment picture is familiar, but what's less widely known is that they are losing not only jobs but also their connections to basic social institutions such as marriage and religion. They're becoming socially disengaged, floating away from the college-educated middle class.

Consider the settings in which they have children. According to surveys by the National Center for Health Statistics, much of the recent rise in childbearing outside of marriage reflects a rise in births to cohabiting couples rather than to women living alone. The percentage of working-class women of all races who were cohabiting when they gave birth rose from 10% in the early 1990s to 27% in the mid-2000s—the largest increase of any educational group.

These working-class couples still value marriage highly. But they don't think they have what it takes to make a marriage work. Across all social classes, in fact, Americans now believe that a couple isn't ready to marry until they can count on a steady income. That's an increasingly high bar for the younger working class. As a result, cohabitation is emerging as the relationship of choice for young adults who have some earnings but not enough steady work to reach the marriage bar.

The problem is that cohabiting relationships don't go the distance. In fact, children who are born to cohabiting parents are more than twice as likely as children born to married parents to see their parents break up by age five. These break-ups are especially troubling because they are often followed by a relationship-go-round, where children are exposed to a bewildering array of parents' partners and stepparents entering and exiting their home in succession.

Church-going habits are changing, too. Traditionally, working-class couples who are married and have steady incomes have attended church, in part, to get reinforcement for the "respectable" lives they lead. But now, when a transformed economy makes marriage and steady work more difficult to attain, those who in better times might have married and attended church appear to be reluctant to show up. Thus, working-class men and women aren't going to religious services as often as they used to.

The drop-off in attendance has been greatest among whites, according to the General Social Survey, conducted biennially by the National Opinion Research Center. In the 1970s, 35% of working-class whites aged 25-45 attended religious services nearly every week, the same percentage as college-educated whites in that age group. Today, the college-educated are the only group who attend services almost as frequently as they did in the 1970s.

Some observers might say that there's nothing alarming about the working class's retreat from marriage and organized religion. It's true that not everyone wishes to marry or to worship, and that family and religious diversity can be valuable.

But the working class is not a cultural vanguard confidently leading the way toward a postmodern lifestyle. Rather, it is a group making constrained choices. For the most part, these are people who would like to marry before having kids but who don't think they are economically ready.

In contrast, college-educated Americans—the winners in our globalized economy—are now living more traditional family and religious lives than their working-class peers. More than 90% of college-educated women are married when they give birth.

What happens, then, when the job-market conditions that once allowed most high-school-educated Americans to connect to the rest of society through hard work, marriage and religious participation no longer exist? Will working-class young adults begin to devalue marriage and religion, or will they fiercely hold onto these ideals because their values are all that they have left?

Will their social disengagement leave them vulnerable to political appeals based on anger and fear? Will their multiple cohabiting unions and marriages prevent their children from developing a sense of attachment to others?

These are the kinds of questions that our nation will confront unless we can narrow the economic and social gap between a middle class that is managing to hold its own in our postindustrial economy and a working class that is falling further and further behind.

Mr. Cherlin is a professor of sociology and public policy at Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Wilcox is director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia.

Retrieved September 4, 2010 from http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703618504575459994284873112.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEFTTopOpinion#printMode