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Saturday, November 9

AN ABORTIONIST'S CODE WORD

In the latest "PRI Weekly Briefing" (the one of November 7th), titled "Making "Reproductive Rights" (Read: Abortion) a Relic of the Past", the president of the Population Research Institute, Steve Mosher, noted that this past week

Bush was quietly on the offensive overseas as well, repudiating another part of the Clinton pro-abortion, anti-people legacy: The radical "reproductive rights" agenda embedded in the so-called Cairo Program of Action. Speaking at the United Nations Asian and Pacific Population Conference on Population in Bangkok late last week, Louis Oliver, Senior Coordinator for International Population Policy at the U.S. Department of State (and a Bush appointee), said that the "reproductive rights" language of the 1994 Cairo Program of Action has got to go.

He then gives a very useful history of the evolution of the term "reproductive rights" as a code word for abortion, beginning with the failure at the Cairo conference eight years ago to make abortion an accepted right. He shows how abortionists have manipulated the language - by which I mean, used it to deceive - and exercised their political power to advance the acceptance of abortion around the world while pretending not to.

You should read the whole article, but I will point out one bit I found particularly amusing. At the Cairo conference in 1994, Timothy Wirth, then-President Clinton's Assistant Secretary of State for Population and the Environment, demanded that access to abortion be accepted as a human right and that to stop population growth countries needed to be directed by targets and quotas. He then declared that "Nations should not stand on national sovereignty in rejecting this fundamental human right."

Wirth seems to have forgotten what he said then, now that it has proven unpopular, thanks not least to the Catholic Church and the Islamic countries. But he does not seem to have changed his mind. Wirth,

who attended last week's meeting in Bangkok, now recalls vaguely that "Cairo was about empowering women and focusing on the special needs and new circumstances surrounding reproductive health issues." He denies that "reproductive rights" has anything much to do with abortion and claims that the Cairo Program of Action did much to reform coercive population control programs, which had formerly been driven by targets and quotas.


8:42 PM


Friday, November 8

AMERICAN DHIMMITUDE:

And while I'm recommending articles from National Review Online, their senior writer and our contributing editor Rod Dreher offers a very interesting report on the reaction to scholar Bat Ye'or at Georgetown University in Damned If You Do: Historians dare to criticize Islamic dhimmitude at Georgetown and pay a price. Ye'or, he writes,

made her reputation by documenting the tragic fate of the dhimmi Christians of the East, in lands conquered by Islam. Classical Islam prescribes a state of existence for subject Jews and Christians under which they must live as second-class citizens, paying a special tax to their Muslim rulers, living under special rules, and not granted the same basic human rights enjoyed by Muslims. Bat Yeor, born a Jew in Egypt but exiled to Europe, is the best-known historian of what she has termed dhimmitude, and has written three books on the subject.

Muslim students objected to the talks - surprise! - and the Jewish and Christian sponsors quickly backed down and began to blame the speakers, claiming, implausibly, that they had not spoken on the subject they had agreed to. Which was, they claim, again implausibly, "authoritarian regimes and how they twist and distort Islam to justify repression against minorities."

I do wonder why Americans turn themselves into what Rod calls "dhimmitized Americans," and portray Islam and Islamic history in a way they would never treat Western history. It does amount, in the case of Jews and Christians, to a disloyalty not only to their own history and heritage, but to their brothers and sisters suffering under Islamic regimes today.


10:44 AM


FEMINIST AMNESIA:

In Tone Deaf? by Pia di Solenni, an interesting report on the National Organization of Women's apparent desire to avoid the subject of abortion and repackage themselves as an organization actually friendly to the lives most women lead. The author is a fellow in life studies at the Family Research Council.


10:17 AM


TIME TO RECOVER MORAL NERVE IN PUBLIC LIFE

Touchstone Associate Editor Robert P. George comments in an article on National Review Online that Republicans need to go on the offensive on particular issues:

At the top of the list is antiterrorism and national security. But there is more, including tax reform and economic growth, enhanced legal protection for the unborn, partially born, and newly born, a ban on all forms of human cloning, and passage of the president's faith-based initiative.

An issue on which President Bush - to his great credit - campaigned vigorously and unceasingly as he toured the country touting Republican senatorial candidates is the confirmation of judges he has appointed and will appoint to fill vacancies in the federal courts. The Democrat-controlled senate - playing to win - has spent two years doing everything it can to prevent the president's nominees - men and women of unsullied honor and proven ability - from getting a confirmation vote or, in many cases, even a hearing. Now it is our turn to play to win.

The first priority of the Senate under Republican leadership should be to rectify a particularly egregious wrong. The worst of the many sins committed by the ultraliberal Senate Judiciary Committee after Jim Jeffords defection transferred control to the Democrats was the trashing of Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen. Despite her distinguished record on the bench - one that earned her a "well-qualified" rating even from the liberal American Bar Association - the Democrats killed her nomination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for one simple reason: She declined to interpret a Texas law regarding parental consent to abortion in the way favored by pro-abortion liberals.


Banning partial-birth abortion would be a small first step in recovering our morals. (Remember, Congress did ban it twice, but President Clinton vetoed the bill in the name of protecting women?) As the 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade approaches this January, is it too much to ask (no, pray for) that the ugly tide of abortion begin to recede, that the land be cleansed of this injustice to innocent and vulnerable human life? May God help our nation.


9:41 AM


Thursday, November 7

IN ILLUSTRATION:

While looking at the Exceptional Marriages weblog, which features several popular Catholic writers, I noticed a link that illustrated rather nicely the thesis of my "Macho Girls" (below), posted by Emily Stimson, who turns out to be a graduate student of theology now, but in an earlier and more prestigious life an assistant to Attorney General Edwin Meese.

She pointed the reader to an article from the New York Times on the pornographic underwear company Frederick's of Hollywood. The article described the company's attempt to get out of bankruptcy, partly by marketing their clothes to teenage girls. She quoted the two paragraphs that most struck me as well:

To attract teenagers and young people in their 20's, Frederick's has already introduced a Get Cheeky line of cotton panties, not only bikinis but the hipper boy-style briefs. "They're so cute," said Jennifer Lowitz, a spokeswoman. "They're like little BVD's, with, like, `Booty Queen' and `Dangerous' and `Bombshell' written on them."

The company also began an innerwear-as-outerwear campaign, in which lace and cotton camisole tops are shown with jeans and leather pants. This spring, Frederick's will bring out its own line of low-rise jeans - especially geared to the younger shopper.


But they are not the only profit-making enterprise to note the financial gain to be made by sexualizing children:

Yet analysts see problems ahead. For one thing, Victoria's Secret has also started reaching for that younger crowd. On Oct. 16, the Limited, Victoria's Secret's parent company, announced that Victoria's would soon introduce a lingerie line called Pink for the 15- to 22-year-old market. And other general apparel stores, including the Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch and Express are introducing their own lingerie lines, for young and old.

And, as one would expect, this desire to corrupt youth in order to make lots and lots of money is justified with the usual feminist-oid rhetoric, this coming from the woman who runs the company:

Ms. LoRe thinks she knows how to translate the brand's appeal to the younger, hipper market. "We are carrying more color and fun," she said. "That young customer has a different attitude than people my age did: they're much more open about their sexuality - look at the clothes they wear. They are not afraid of their bodies, no matter what size they are."


12:47 PM


Wednesday, November 6

MACHO GIRLS:

I watch unusual movies once in a while, in an effort to keep up with the culture, and the other night watched The Smokers, an independent movie about three girls in an expensive boarding school in Chicago. Two are quite wealthy while the third is a scholarship girl from a poor family, but all come from dysfunctional homes. They decide that they are tired of being weak and exploited by men, and decide to turn the tables by forcing the boys in the school to have sex with them by threatening them with a gun

They do not succeed, and are not happy, and their friendship breaks apart, till things spin out of control, as they tend to do in these movies. I think it was meant to be a comedy, but it was too accurate to be funny, because one knew that all around us are tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of young women exactly like the three girls, just as unhappy and confused and desperate, and one cannot laugh at children who are lost in the dark.

It proved to be an oddly conservative movie. The girls' pursuit of sexual power just proved to them how impotent they were. One can't help but feel that the three are sad but very silly young women, and that their sexuality was as dangerous to them as the gun. Of the three, the two who had sex came to bad ends: one left with an apparent disgust with sex and with the guilt of killing a boy, the other burned to death, blamed afterwards for the killing the first committed. Their sexual acts - the film earned its R rating - gave them no joy and little pleasure. The one who does not have sex in the movie finally recognizes the good man who cares for her and the voiceover at the end suggests that she marries him after the movie ends and is now living happily ever after.

The result was that the movie was, if anything, an advertisement for virginity. It was therefore somewhat of an irony to come across an article in The New York Times that praised - somewhat ambivalently - the sexually aggressive young woman.

"Ever since Sadie Hawkins, teenage girls have chased and flirted with boys. But now they are initiating more intimate contact, sometimes even sex, in a
more aggressive manner, according to the anecdotal accounts of many counselors, psychologists, magazine editors and teenagers," claims a story titled "She's Got to Be a Macho Girl" in the November 3rd issue of The New York Times. (Look it up now as their stories stay free only a few days.)

As with most such stories on alleged social trends, it is hard to know whether it is a trend at all, and if so how significant it is. The author offers quotes from teenagers around the country and examples from pop culture, particularly pop music, but the only hard data he cites shows a decrease in adolescent sexual activity. The thesis seems intuitively true, but does it seem intuitively true because it fits what we expect and at some level want to believe (liberals because it shows how liberation and equality have spread, conservatives because it shows how bad things are)?

And if it is true, who does it apply to? All teenagers? Affluent teenagers? Poor teenagers? Secular teenagers? Teenagers from what used to be called - and accurately - broken homes? Teenagers in the public schools and secular private academies? Teenagers who watch a lot of tv? These are all significant distinctions, which the writer does not make.

Assuming it is generally true, it is really a sad story, despite the brave claims of some of the adults quoted, who see the creation of sexually expansive young women as an expression of equality, confidence, and the like, and one of the greatest fruits of feminism. They use the word "empower" a lot. People like Atoosa Rubenstein, the editor of CosmoGirl, a magazine that originated in Hell, explain that

"Their mothers have told them, Go for student council, go for the team, go for that job, and that has turned from a message directed toward achievement to being something their whole lives are about. So they apply it to pursuing boys as well."

But the matter does not stop with girls asking out boys because they feel confident enough to do so. (One notices, by the way, that the whole idea of dating, especially the idea that children of that age should be out alone in a romantic affair that will not lead to any permanent commitment, is never ever questioned in American newspapers and magazines, though it really is a very odd and imprudent practice.) The matter inevitably involves the question of what these children do on their dates, and Ms. Rubenstein has a blithe answer:

Whether that pursuit is sexual or an expression of a crush, Ms. Rubenstein said, "is up to the girl."

Up to the girl. There you are. The choice of an act with profound and ineradicable moral, spiritual, emotional, social, and usually physical consequences is to be left up to a child who is not considered competent to vote, choose elective surgery, drink, or decide whether or not to go to school. If her choice results in a baby, however, she is considered competent to have him killed. In many states she cannot get her ears pierced without her parents' permission, but in nearly all of them she can have her womb opened and evacuated without even telling them.

But it is up to the girl, and we are meant to think that this is a good thing. We get a different view from Dr. Ann Kearney-Cooke, a co-director of the Helping Girls Become Strong Women Project at Columbia University.

"The culture - MTV videos and television shows - helps to reduce adolescent girls to being successful when they look sexy and date often" . . . Teenagers, Dr. Kearney-Cooke said, feast on media images while they starve for love and parental attention. "One of the ways we learn about relationships is by being in them and seeing them at work," she said. "Today, kids come home from school and the parents or parent might not be home. They watch MTV and talk shows and cruise the Internet, and that is where they are learning about relationships."

And from magazines like CosmoGirl.

I asked at the beginning what teenagers we are talking about, because it does seem likely that most of them come from a sexually damaged upbringing. The articles seems to suggest this, by quoting a Mr. Alan Beckerman, a 19-year-old student who has written a book titled "Generation SLUT - "SLUT" standing for "sexually liberal urban teenagers." (According to the article, Mr. Beckerman's book will be published next year by Simon & Shuster/MTV Books.) He

surmised that girls may be trying to transform sex into something as meaningless as they believe it is for boys.

"All kids are scared of long-term relationships now," Mr. Beckerman said. "Our parents are all divorced, and we have never seen a successful long-term relationship. Girls don't want to think of sex as something which is about love because that will just come back and bite them later. The sex thing is just the most visible sign of disconnectedness we feel."


It seems to me that he is almost certainly right but, reading between the lines, it seems to me that there is one other reason why these young women are so aggressive. And it is the exact opposite reason to that the writer and nearly everyone quoted accepts as self-evident. I think these children are so aggressive not because they are confident but because they despair. They are taught from an early age that sex is inevitable but also that it is finally unsatisfying and leads eventually, inevitably to pain. They learn the first from MTV, talk shows, the internet, and magazines like CosmoGirl. They learn the second from their parents' divorces, their friends' break-ups, their own veneral diseases and abortions.

They feel that it is not "up to the girl." It is easier, and seems safer, to try to make the affair "meaningless." If it does not have meaning it cannot hurt, they think.

As I say, I think this in part from reading between the lines, but also from long observation of people I know, and the testimony of movies like The Smokers. The story quotes an 18-year-old girl who says that

"I think with feminist thought being pushed upon girls from a young age, that some people put a premium on girls' dominating different areas of life. So girls may now feel that it is also important to dominate in a sexual relationship. This allows the girl to have more control, e.g. `I wanted him to do that' versus `He sort of made me do something.' "

I may be wrong, but I hear in her last sentence the voice of a young woman, speaking for her peers, who is trying to avoid despair by claiming that she is the agent of her own actions, the one who decides her own destiny. Notice how passive she is even while claiming to have "control": "I wanted him to do that," not "I wanted to do that." And notice that even while claiming to have control, she can only say "more control," which in context does not seem to mean that she really has all that much control over what the boy does. The sentence does not suggest confidence. It suggests what in adults we would call "damage control" or "spin."

It is the wording of one who has done something she wishes she had not done but feels she had to do. It is the voice of despair, familiar to us through the comic figure of the man who yells "You can't fire me, I quit!" and storms from his boss's office, having salvaged his pride a little bit though he is still ruined. It is not in any way comical in the mouths of children, who ought to have been free from the dangers and the suffering of CosmoGirl sexuality, and the need to cope by being aggressive, who ought to have grown up free to choose what they would do without even thinking of what boys wanted, till someday they found men who would love them, lay down their lives for them, live with them till death did them part, to whom they could offer their sexuality freely and without fear, whose children they would bear.

The odd thing is, that such young women would have more control over their lives than the macho young women the story describes. One does not need to be a Christian to know that chastity empowers. The control of the appetites makes you free. The chaste young woman is the only one of whom it can truly be said, "It is up to the girl." Freud knew this, after all, which is perhaps why the sexually liberationist form of feminism tends to hate him almost as much as they hate Christ. They fear such freedom. They prefer the "freedom" that any fool can see is really slavery.


9:27 PM


Monday, November 4

MORE ON GOODNESS VS. VIRTUE:

Two responses to my "Can we be good without virtue?" (posted on November 1st). The first comes from a thoughtful reader:

Scripture doesn't say much about being a "good man". We are exhorted to be faithful, to be obedient, to be loving, to be holy, but not to be "good". "No one is good but God alone," says the Lord, and the only place where I could find someone called "good" without irony is Barnabas in Acts: "He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith."

As for the shepherd: in John 10 we learn that if he lets the wolves get to the sheep, he is a hireling, not a shepherd. Whether he is a good hireling or a bad hireling is not addressed. Concerning the bishops you write about, to say they behave like hirelings rather than like shepherds is condemnation enough.

The terms "virtue" and "duty" seem to have disappeared from public discourse; it is difficult to call someone virtuous or dutiful without it sounding sarcastic or condescending (think "dutiful wife"). Were these not once noble terms that described our highest aspirations? Where did they go?

In their place we have "good" and "nice", which as you say are mostly sentimental. You are good and nice if you are pleasant and inoffensive and don't hurt anybody.

This shrinking of virtue and duty into niceness was recognized and attacked a century ago by Nietzsche, see for example the discourse on the "Last Man" in
Thus Spoke Zarathustra ("they quarrel, but are soon reconciled - otherwise it upsets their stomachs" - makes me thinks of bishops in a certain denomination).

Nietzsche blamed Christianity for this decline and of course I think he was wrong. Yet this mini-goodness is connected to a certain interpretation of Christianity - the one that loves Jesus the gentle loving sage who taught the Golden Rule and said "judge not", but cannot abide Jesus the teacher, the healer, the exorcist, the coming judge, the one with the whips in the temple.

How little we are outraged at people who fail to do their duty. How little outrage there is at delinquent corporate executives like those at Enron. We claim to deplore their crimes but something tells me most of them will rehabilitated socially before very long.

And conversely (warning, politics coming) I wondered at how easily the religious right praised George W. Bush as a "moral man" during the 2000 campaign - the phrase seemed to mean little more than "man who has never been accused of adultery." Not that he showed any sign of being a bad man, but shouldn't goodness consist in more than the absence of vice?

We need a positive of Christian conception of what it means to be a good man or woman. It begins with rejecting vice, but carries on to taking up one's duty - which is one's cross - and doing it, no matter what the cost. If anyone should be called "good" it is those who have taken up hard callings and fulfilled them at great cost to themselves.


The second comes from Byron Murgatroyd, an Episcopalian living in the Pacific northwest:

While I personally agree with your comments and sentiments, I think your critique misses the mark. The issue isn't "can we be good without virtue", but rather, "good itself is now virtue." Thus, despite the vows, it is clear that in most of Western society, and perhaps elsewhere, not rocking the boat and having good intentions is what is virtuous. So, it is now virtuous to kill the messenger of Truth, because the Truth rocks the boat. It's ok for wolves to eat the sheep, because not upsetting the junior shepherds is virtuous.

And, of course, in the ECUSA [the Episcopal Church], it's unvirtuous for another shepherd to come to your pasture to save your sheep from wolves if you didn't invite that other shepherd. The other shepherd is virtuous only if he is granted permission to tend the sheep in your pasture.

If you fail to protect your sheep from wolves, it's unvirtuous for the other shepherd to point out your sheep are being eaten, either by wolves or junior shepherds. The corollary to this is that good = good intentions. I grew up with my mother saying "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." I didn't understand that back in 1965. I'm afraid I understand it all too well today.

Most of my parish probably don't view me as "virtuous."


I agree with both of them and thank them for their comments. I think my small difference with Mr. Murgatroyd is that I was writing of the distinction between goodness and virtue as they really exist and he is writing of their conflation or identity in practice.

For most of our peers, being "nonjudgmental" and the like is in itself to be virtuous, as he notes, while those of us who insist on making judgments, no matter how carefully and hesitantly, are treated as mean-spirited angry dissatisfied reactionary cranks. Which may sometimes be true, of course, but still, the mean-spirited angry dissatisfied reactionary crank may be right about the facts when being right about the facts is important. He may in fact see the unpleasant facts the more cheerful refuse to see or cannot see through their rose-colored lenses.

The Titanic might have finished its maiden voyage had its captain been a crankier observer of the strengths and weaknesses of his unsinkable ship.


7:08 PM


WISDOM FROM OUR OWN:

The latest column for Charles Colson's Breakpoint Online by our contributing editor Roberto Rivera is an interesting (and accurate, I think) reflection on why so many people support letting homosexual couples be official couples too: "No Other Kind" in his Notes from the Wasteland. For previous columns and links to his articles on the websites Boundless and BeliefNet, see Notes from the Wasteland.


10:05 AM


STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF

Like so much that comes out of our elite universities these days, this item from the Cornell university newspaper really defies parody. (The author's name made me wonder if it is in fact a parody. It's often hard to tell. Just as, when I watch a show like Saturday Night Live, I find it hard to understand why the "serious" musical acts are not every bit as laughable as the "humorous" skits.) But the reigning "enlightened" assumptions about what "sexual health" is, and what "the whole person" is, are here put forward with admirable clarity. It's also interesting to see how willing students are to plead stupidity or resourcelessness (gee, we just don't have any good way of getting hold of these things on our own) or even appeal to naked class privilege (we shouldn't have to endure the indignity of going to the "seedy" side of town), to get what they want. Anyone who has taught at a place like Cornell, where students drive cars far more expensive than their professors', and spend their spring breaks in Aruba, will recognize this for what it is. They also know that Cornell will eventually cave in---if not now, later, when no one is watching. But I, for one, am relieved to be assured that when it does so, "profit" will not be involved.

Gannett May Provide Vibrators

By FREDA READY

Gannett: Cornell University Health Services is currently debating whether to sell vibrators in their dispensary.

"This comes out of many conversations between myself and people in the LGBT community about how to improve Gannett's services and make it more affirming of women's sexuality," Somjen Frazer '03 said, who is the main researcher for the Women's Health Initiative (WHI).

Through her research, Frazer works closely with Gannett to find ways to serve women whose health care "has been historically undeserved."

If Gannett decides to sell vibrators, it would not be a move motivated by profit, according to Sharon Dittman, associate director of community relations for Gannett.

"We really strive to serve the community. We take input from individuals and groups and research projects," she said.

The WHI was one such research project.

"One piece of information that came out of that project was that it would be helpful to a subset of the community to sell vibrators at the dispensary," Dittman said.

Many students feel it would be helpful for Gannett to have vibrators available because Cornell is located in Ithaca, not a major city.

"At this point, you either go online or go downtown to the sort of scary and not very woman-affirming place sex-shop downtown," Frazer said.

Some students agreed that access is important.

"I'm sure there are people who are dying to find vibrators and they don't know where to go, so Gannett, go ahead," Keith Hermanstyne '04 said.

Others took a more practical approach.

"I think one of the most important things is for women to be able to get themselves off. It's better than going to the sketchy shop downtown where they have to check the batteries for you," Sara Jacobs '05 said.

Orlando Soria '04, a Residential Advisor (RA) in Risley Residential College, agreed.

"We know masturbation is healthy, so any tools that can help people discover their sexuality are positive. Any action by the University that gets the idea of sexuality out of the marginalized place that we're used to seeing it in is a good thing," he said.

For some the issue is more ideological.

"I think this is a very productive move because the sex industry is associated with back alleys, black boxes and seedy sales people. This is a move that will allow people to feel more comfortable about buying things they already buy," said Christopher Dial '04, another Risley R.A.

One student was less encouraging of the proposal.

"Are they going to start selling Hustler too?" said Ann Zatsman '05. "It's not a necessity. If people really want one, they can go online."

According to Frazer, however, there are specific advantages to having Gannett sell vibrators. As with anything else they sell, the dispensary will give out educational materials explaining how to properly clean a vibrator that two women are going to share and what exactly vibrators can be used for. She said that in a recent meeting she had with women from all across the campus, many were concerned that Gannett should have educational brochures along with the vibrators for this purpose.

Frazer addressed the concerns of those, such as Zatsman, who worry about the health center's future.

"Gannett is not going to open a sex shop. They don't have the space and it's not their mission," she said.

Dittman explained that vibrators have uses other than for masturbatory purposes.

"Vibrators or personal massagers may have a broader appeal to people who use our massage therapy and physical therapy services for muscle relaxation. [Using a vibrator] can be a part of a holistic health approach," she said.

She added that selling vibrators would offer Gannett an opportunity for more education on safer sex, which is one of the center's main concerns.

Both Dittman and Frazer pointed out that selling vibrators was a small part of the WHI and of Gannett's commitment to addressing the needs of students.

"This is teeny-tiny part of a much larger project on women's health. It's great that Gannett's making a strong gesture about their commitment to affirming women's sexuality. This is part of an ongoing partnership between women concerned about their health and their healthcare providers," Frazer said.

"Women have some really pressing health issues that don't relate to sexuality. It's not just about sex. It's about seeing a woman as a whole person," she added. Dittman estimated that Gannett will come to a decision by the end of the semester.


6:20 AM


Sunday, November 3

MARK SHEA RESPONDS:

An interesting response to my "Bad Shepherds" from the Catholic apologist Mark Shea, posted on his blogsite Catholic and Enjoying It!.. Scroll down to October 31st.


3:53 PM


HITCHOCK'S INSIGHTS:

I mean James, not Alfred. A distinguished theologian wrote in my response to my "Bad Shepherds" of October 30th that my analysis "is excellent and right on target." (He's discerning as well as distinguished.) He wanted to expand on my argument that by tolerating both error and child abuse the bishops have disheartened and angered "those who would be their most faithful and their most realistic supporters," by quoting my colleague James Hitchcock on the subject of "alienated allies."

Here are the two selections he sent along, one from Jim's "Conservative Bishops, Liberal Results" in Catholic World Report and the other from his "An American Catholic Peace Proposal" in Catholic Dossier. (The latter has since ceased publication. The first I recommend heartily.)

Excerpts from James Hitchock's "Conservative Bishops, Liberal Results" from Catholic World Report:

Common sense would have dictated that, faced with massive dissent from official teachings, bishops would have made every effort to identify the core of Catholics, clerical and lay, who accepted those teachings, given them every encouragement, and used that core as a base from which to reach out to others.

Instead the American bishops seem to have made the collective decision almost to ignore such people, who were soon left to fend for themselves, as practically all pastoral efforts were turned towards those who dissented. Now, however, the purpose of those pastoral efforts was not to bring back lost sheep but to reexamine the very concept of being "lost," opening the possibility that the lost sheep were in fact the new leaders of the flock.

. . . Whatever his intentions, a new bishop quickly discovers how tightly the liberals control the diocesan machinery-the school office, the priests' senate, the office of social justice, and other bureaus-and he realizes that dislodging such people will be no easy task and will be unpleasant.

He thus resolves to proceed slowly, until he has a firm understanding of the situation, comes to know his personnel, and devises an effective strategy. Very quickly he is pressed by conservatives, mainly lay people, about abuses, but he declines even to admit that these are abuses, pending the time when he can see a way of correcting them.

But time rapidly passes. Soon the bishop realizes that, while he had entered his see with some apprehension over the problems he would face, his tenure has in fact been pleasant. At some point his chancellor may say something like, "Candidly, Bishop, there were people here who expected the worst when you were appointed, but everyone is pleasantly surprised. You have confounded your critics."

Given such reinforcement, it would be a determined bishop indeed who would proceed to make the sweeping changes necessary for authentic renewal. Human beings are capable of finding endless excuses for putting off unpleasant tasks, and the bishop tells himself that he must have the freedom to accomplish his mission in his own way and in his own time.

Meanwhile, however, the conservatives in the diocese, who had perhaps always been unrealistic in their expectations, are becoming increasingly impatient. Of necessity, given his unwillingness to act, the bishop finds himself defending things which he knows are indefensible, and he also finds himself becoming annoyed at the people who seem not to understand his problems and who demand that he act instantly. At some point his chancellor may smile wryly and say, "Now, Bishop, you can see what we have had to put up with from those people all these years."

Step by step, through a process which is largely unconscious until almost completed, the bishop is recruited as an ally by the very people whose practices he was supposed to correct. Unless he is cynical, he cannot continue to defend things which he knows are wrong, hence he eventually comes to believe that alleged abuses are not abuses at all and that the problems in the diocese stem from those who "do not accept the reforms of Vatican II." To the degree that the bishop has a lingering bad conscience over his failure to act where action is needed, his discomfort is projected onto his conservative critics.

. . . In some ways having a liberal diocese presided over by a bishop known to be conservative is better for the liberal cause than having a bishop of their own, since the conservative bishop gives a mantle of respectability to liberal policies. Complaining laity can be even more easily dismissed, on the grounds that "even our conservative bishop does not make them happy." Often there is an unspoken compromise-the bishop says inspiringly orthodox things on public occasions, even as diocesan policies move in quite different directions.

Conservative lay people find it practically impossible to make a credible stand for orthodoxy in a liberal diocese, precisely because their opinions are defined as merely that-opinions. Although the Pope and the bishop may both state orthodox teachings clearly, in particular situations the bishop seldom allows himself to identify lapses from that orthodoxy. Thus conservative lay people protesting diocesan practices always come to seem like cranks, since the bishop himself does not recognize the abuses they see.

Excerpts from James Hitchock's "An American Catholic Peace Proposal" in Catholic Dossier:

. . . Hence religious illiteracy is the intended result of an ecclesial revolution which has occurred with the active or passive support even of many bishops. If the results are now recognized as regrettable, this necessitates a fundamental critique of liberal ideas which have prevailed over a period of almost forty years.

Here as elsewhere "moderates" like [Jesuit Fr. Thomas] Rausch fail to understand that the strong emotions which they decry in conservatives are often generated by intensely frustrating experiences with things like planned religious illiteracy, the repeated bald claims that all is well, and the assurances that those who created the problem and for so long denied its existence can now be relied on to solve it.

. . . As in secular politics, "moderates" like Rausch make use of a double standard by which the anger and frustrations of feminists or homosexuals are taken as a sign of their authenticity and of the fact that they have been mistreated by the Church, while similar emotions among conservatives are taken as evidence that dialogue with them would be impossible.

A similar double standard allowed the present situation to develop. Opinion polls now show that a substantial majority of Catholics are more or less liberal on religious questions, and this fact is constantly cited to warn Church leaders that they dare not go against the sense of the faithful. But in l965, when probably a large majority of Catholics were bewildered or apprehensive about change, the authority of the pope and the Second Vatican Council were constantly invoked to justify change. So too the imperative of "prophecy" was constantly invoked to justify positions which few Catholics would have willingly supported.

Now, however, liberals in effect propose a theory of majority rule on matters even of doctrine and morals. As with theological ignorance, their present liberalism was not something which merely happened. It was systematically encouraged for thirty years by the religious professionals who have controlled the ecclesiastical machinery.


3:36 PM


SCIENCE SEES MORE ABOUT WHAT GOD IS DOING::

On Time magazine's website and worth reading, "Inside the Womb". It is one of those stories that give the Christian an even better idea of the power and magnificence of God, because it shows us another aspect of the extraordinary creation he gave us. If you believe in the doctrine of creation, science will provide many chances to feel the awe we should feel as a matter of course but mostly don't.

By the way, the subtitle to the article is "What scientists have learned about those amazing first nine months-and what it means for mothers." What it ought to mean is that mothers should not abort their children at any point in those amazing first nine months, but the magazine does not draw this one.


3:34 PM




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