It was, if I recall, Evelyn Waugh who wrote about a Catholic gentleman whose idea of a perfect world was one in which he would have a new papal bull to read at breakfast every day. This year had some wags speaking about their membership in the Encyclical of the Month Club. Actually, there were only two, but they came in rapid order: Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) and Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One). This issue includes extended comments on the former. Ut Unum Sint, issued May 30, is on ecumenism and, since Christian unity is an abiding concern of this journal, it will no doubt be coming in for further examination in the months and years ahead.
The initial response to Ut Unum Sint has been almost uniformly favorable. In the general media, it did not receive the major attention accorded Evangelium Vitae, and that is no doubt because editors view ecumenism as an internal Christian question with slight bearing on the public realm. While not surprising, that is a very big mistake. In a world increasingly marked by resurgent religion, notably Christianity and Islam, the ecumenical reconfiguration of 1.8 billion Christians is a matter of enormous world-historical import. Of course Ut Unum Sint does not effect such a reconfiguration, but it does irrevocably commit the Catholic Church, with more than a billion members, to that goal.
The forcefulness with which that commitment is expressed is what strikes many as the most dramatic feature of the encyclical. It does not add anything doctrinally substantive to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the relationship of the Catholic Church to other Christians, but it spells out the ecumenical implications, both theological and strategic, and underscores in an unprecedented manner the urgency with which the Catholic Church views the search for Christian unity.
After the Council, there was much talk about the Catholic Church “joining” the ecumenical movement that dates from the 1910 Edinburgh Missionary Conference and is today represented by the World Council of Churches (WCC). Because of the asymmetry of size and ecclesiological self-understandings, there was never a possibility of the Catholic Church simply joining the WCC as another church among the churches. Ut Unum Sint formally clarifies what most observers-Protestant, Orthodox, and Catholic-have recognized to be the case in the last several decades, namely, that since the Council the Catholic Church has reconstituted the ecumenical movement. In some respects, the Catholic Church today is the ecumenical movement; at the very least it is the spiritual and institutional center of the movement toward Christian unity in our time.
The encyclical reflects the urgency, indeed the passion, of this pope for the restoration of full communion between East and West that was broken in 1054. He has repeatedly spoken of the second millennium as the millennium of Christian divisions, and the third millennium as, please God, the millennium of Christian unity. Of course the encyclical also has very much in mind the divisions that issued from the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century, but with respect to the Orthodox Church of the East there is a sense of imminent reconciliation. Speaking of East and West, the document says the Church must “again breathe with both lungs.” In recent years there have been extraordinary steps toward reconciliation with the Orthodox, but the Pope clearly hopes that full communion might be restored in his pontificate, or at least that he will witness a mutual and irrevocable commitment to the achievement of that goal, sooner rather than later. Certainly, Ut Unum Sint irrevocably commits the Catholic Church. Bartholomew of Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch, met with John Paul II in Rome last June, and, like his immediate predecessors, declared his devotion to the goal of full communion. He and others, however, are under pressure from some Orthodox leaders to go slow. Indeed some Orthodox, such as the very influential monks of Mount Athos, are clearly alarmed by what they view as a possible sell-out of Orthodoxy to its traditional enemy, Rome. In view of centuries of acrimony and keenly remembered grievances on the part of the East, some believe that any dramatic step toward reconciliation with Rome could lead to further conflicts, and even schism, within Orthodoxy. If, as is commonly said, Rome thinks in terms of centuries, the consciousness of many Orthodox is virtually timeless. For as long as memory serves, the Orthodox have talked about a forthcoming Pan-Orthodox Council that would bring together all the jurisdictions of the East. The late Alexander Schmemann, one of the most influential Orthodox theologians of this century, wryly observed that a Pan-Orthodox Council is an eschatological concept. Nonetheless, Ut Unum Sint demonstrates that the Catholic Church is undaunted, and will do all it can to effect a reconciliation that it believes is made both possible and imperative by the revealed truth that Orthodox and Catholics hold in common. This determination is strikingly evident in the way the encyclical puts on the table the question of the exercise of the papal ministry. John Paul forcefully makes the point that the Petrine ministry, instituted by Christ, rightly belongs to all Christians. He acknowledges that this ministry, which was given to serve Christian unity, has at times been a cause of division. He asks all Christians to help him reflect on how the successor of Peter might exercise this ministry in a different way, and he points to the first millennium of the undivided Church as a possible source of models that might be newly relevant today.
Of course Don Wildemon, William Bennett, and Bill Donohue of the Catholic League are doing a gutsy thing in protesting the unremitting stream of sleaze that is popular culture. One can even muster a grudging respect for Senator Robert Dole’s protest, while recognizing the political opportunism that motors it. T. S. Eliot notwithstanding, society frequently does depend upon people doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Especially politicians. For people like Bennett and Donohue, who have an intellectual reputation to protect, there is a price to be paid in being depicted as censorious prudes who are the enemies of “artistic creativity.” In confrontations with such as the executives of Time Warner, Bennett plays the role of old Joe Welch in the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954: “Sir, have you no shame?” The answer, of course, is that many of them don’t, while others think they are doing a morally good thing. One must believe that some of them really do think that. Gangsta’ rap may be ugly, they say, but it shows the world as it really is, and, anyway, testing the limits of the First Amendment is always a public service. A while back the paper reported that the Calvin Klein advertising people got an award for their groundbreaking creativity in splashing advertisements of near-naked men and women on buses and billboards around the country. In some advertising circles, they are referred to as the Calvin Slime ads, but there is little doubt that the folk responsible for them really do take pride in their courage, and would if they could depict explicit sexual acts of polymorphous perversity. Who knows, perhaps soon they will do just that, breaking yet newer ground in the rubble of what are quaintly called civilizational standards. At the risk of sounding conspiratorial, one cannot entirely discount those who boast of being part of a vast conspiracy to liberate society from the stifling mores of the past. The conspiracy is candidly displayed in Patricia Morrissroe’s new biography of Robert Mapplethorpe. The late and much celebrated photographer who died of AIDS routinely referred to his exhibitions as “the sex pictures,” and took great delight in insinuating pornography into what is called mainstream art. In the Cincinnati obscenity trial over the exhibition of his photographs (a bullwhip up the anus, a man urinating into another’s mouth, and other such pleasantries), internationally recognized authorities declared Mapplethorpe’s work to be of great artistic merit, while, according to Morrissroe, they sniggered behind the scenes over how they were outfoxing the local legal rubes who thought they could build a prosecution on, ha ha, community standards. The standards of the philistines don’t stand a chance up against the art of the self-certified creative community. Morrissroe reports that Mapplethorpe’s most intense pleasure was in watching others eat his excrement. He and his allies in the arts establishment were delighted to implicate the public in his games, and had the added satisfaction of having taxpayers pay for it. Critics have pointed out that the newspapers that editorially defend porno-art dare not print pictures of what they are defending. An editor at a local paper says this is a cheap shot, since there are many things they might defend others exhibiting that they would not exhibit themselves. There’s a measure of truth in that. The New York Times, say, can defend the legal right of pornographers to exhibit their products without taking on any obligation to print the stuff in its pages. But it is a different matter when the Times champions Mapplethorpe and other “controversial” projects as art worthy of respect. Surely the editors should not hesitate to show their readers what they think is art deserving of public support. Any doubt about the media’s mendacity is removed by the fact that they do show their readers and viewers uncontroversial and even lovely works of the artists in question. Thus during the Mapplethorpe controversies the Times regularly published his charming photographs of orchids and lilies, inviting its readers to join in its indignation against the Yahoos who would censure such innocent creativity. As Big Daddy says in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, “Mendacity. I’m surrounded by mendacity.”
“I’m sorry, but I find that hard to believe.” He was a Harvard-trained lawyer in a large New York firm, and the subject was Jewish and Christian attitudes toward church-state relations. What he found hard to believe, what he obviously did not believe, was my observation that millions of Americans do not personally know any Jews. In a country where no more than 2 percent of the population is Jewish, and that 2 percent is concentrated in a few cities, many Americans have never, to their knowledge, met a Jew, and for a majority it is likely that there are no Jews among their friends, acquaintances, and associates. Jews growing up in, say, New York City and attending Ivy League schools understandably find that hard to believe. A colleague, a successful writer, says it was one of the great shocks of her childhood to learn that Jews are not at least half the American population. “I think somewhere in the back of my mind, contrary to what I know for a fact, I still believe we are at least 30 percent,” she says. Dennis Prager, editor of Ultimate Issues, recalls the isolation that came with attending a yeshiva, an Orthodox Jewish day school. Most Jews of course do not attend yeshiva, yet they, too, are frequently isolated. The difference is that Prager has good Jewish reasons for caring about non-Jews, even if his yeshiva teachers did not understand those reasons. These are among the questions engaged in Prager’s reflection on what he learned, and did not learn, from attending yeshivas from age five through eighteen. He learned, for instance, about wasting time. “Bitul torah literally means ‘annulling the Torah.’ In practice it means ‘wasting time that you could otherwise be devoting to something related to Torah.’ The way it was taught to me, bitul torah covered just about everything not directly related to Torah. Watching television was therefore certainly bitul torah. But to some of my rabbis, so were Shakespeare, sports, and nonreligious music. They overdid it, but the concept of bitul torah has never left me. . . . Thanks to the concept of bitul torah, Judaism taught me that time may be God’s most precious gift to us. To squander it is a sin. That is not the general attitude in secular society where ‘killing time’ is not considered a form of killing. But it is.” He also learned a truth so important that he thinks humanity can be divided between those who do and those who don’t know it. “One night when my older son was in third grade, I asked him what he had learned that day in school, an Orthodox Jewish day school. ‘That I have a yetzer harah,’ he responded. I was delighted for both psychological and moral reasons. . . . The moral reason for my delight at my son’s learning that he had a built-in bad inclination was that he would know from then on that life is a constant battle with his yetzer harah, i.e., with himself. This traditional Jewish belief is at total variance with the intellectual mindset of our time, which holds that the most important battle for us to wage is with our environment, with our society. A generation has been raised to believe that its greatest problems emanate from hostile and oppressive outside forces such as racism, sexism, and economic inequality.” The awareness that the battle is within oneself, says Prager, “is a defining characteristic of the truly religious person,” whether Jewish or not. As is also a sense of kedusha, or holiness. “The sense that some behaviors, while not immoral, are still wrong because they are unholy is alien to a generation raised thoroughly secular. ‘If it isn’t illegal, it isn’t an issue’ can almost serve as a description of the secular mindset. There is a sort of secular equivalent to the religious concept of the unholy-‘vulgar.’ But vulgarity is not an often used term in our time, as it just doesn’t seem to bother many people today.” A sense of kedusha, as Prager discusses it, is not unrelated to the aesthetic, a sense of what is appropriate, and he laments what he thinks is the growing use of dirty language even in presumably polite company. But more than dirty language is at stake. “Awareness of kedusha had a powerful impact on me. By my late twenties, my premarital sexual life increasingly struck me as unholy (though not immoral, a distinction that must be strongly maintained). This awareness played a decisive role in moving me to get married.” Then there is the question of how you talk about others. “Perhaps my rudest awakening to the secular world after a lifetime in yeshiva was the amount of lashon hara I encountered. I remember the first time I heard that people could make a living as a ‘gossip columnist.’ ‘A lashon hara columnist!’ I thought. I could hardly believe it. . . . Of course, all the public lashon hara is more than matched by all the private lashon hara that people engage in. At yeshiva, I learned the power of the tongue to destroy. Think of how long it takes to form a good opinion of a person after hearing just a few seconds of lashon hara about him.” Another lesson learned in yeshiva is likely of particular interest to authors. “According to the Talmud, ‘Whoever cites the source for what he says brings redemption to the world.’ This oft-cited quotation is literally true. If people would cite the source of an idea or quote that they express, they really would bring redemption to our unredeemed world. For it means that people would then be more interested in truth than in personal glory. . . . I am still taken aback when someone, with all goodwill, tells me, ‘I stole one of your ideas in a speech that I gave.’ When the source isn’t cited, it is stealing.” And he learned to ask questions. “In the words of the Talmud, ‘the shy one doesn’t learn.’ This is taught to yeshiva children from our earliest years. Ask, ask, and ask again. Not all questions were answered (see below), but asking was always encouraged. Friends who grew up in other religions are often amazed at the amount of questioning that went on in yeshiva.” In sum, he learned that there is a code of right and wrong that overrides, or should override, one’s own feelings. “The most powerful legacy of yeshiva education was the Halakhic mentality. Halakha is the word for Jewish law, and in the yeshiva, it is the guiding principle of life. Simply put, there is a right and wrong for every action. The emphasis, unfortunately, was more on the laws between man and God than on the laws between man and his fellow man, but there was plenty of teaching of the latter as well. . . . Again, when I attended college, I was struck by the fact that for most of my fellow students everything seemed to be permitted. This aroused in me ambivalent feelings of envy and fear. I envied their ability to do just about anything (like drive on Saturdays!), and feared that the lack of issurim (prohibitions) in their lives might lead to evil.” Prager writes, “I suspect that even if a person from yeshiva overthrows the entire religious tradition, he will still go through life with the question, ‘Is it permitted?’ ringing in his ears.”
per year. The address is 6020 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA 90232. Telephone: 310-558-3958. Fax: 310-558-4241.)
Confession time. It’s always been fun to make fun of Anglicanism. And the fun-making is not unmixed with a seasoning of envy. I recall reading years ago an article in an Episcopalian magazine which contended that Anglicans really need not bother with evangelization since Anglicanism is “the finishing school” for people who had already been evangelized. The sheer pretentiousness of it. And yet, there was a lot to be pretentious about. Now it all seems to be in a shambles. William Oddie, a former C of E priest, is among those who have abandoned ship and found refuge in Rome. He writes regularly in the Spectator and elsewhere on why the jig is at last up with the C of E, and is just as regularly answered by loyalists who say, in effect and sometimes explicitly, that there will always be an England, and therefore there will always be a Church of England. I’m all right, Jack.
Cardinal Newman launched the Anglo-Catholic thing, of course, only to conclude, with great reluctance, that his idea of Anglicanism as a middle way (via media) was little more than a “paper church.” Sheridan Gilley takes up that theme in a recent issue of the Tablet. He, too, has been drawn to the capacious bosom of Mother Rome, but he has poignant memories of what used to be home: “The decline of Anglo-Catholicism seems to me to be a serious impoverishment of Christianity. The High Church tradition took all that is best and most beautiful in the Church of England, the King James Bible, the Book of Common Prayer, with its wonderful Cranmerian cadences, the ancient English cathedrals and parish churches, a tradition of literature and of learning, and the kindness, gentleness, and tolerance of English life, and enriched them with judicious borrowings from the doctrine, devotion, and scholarship of the wider Catholic world. It seemed the perfect meeting-place between Catholicity and Englishness, without the harshness or philistinism of English Roman Catholicism. Now that whole Anglican Gothic world has come to grief. Anglo-Catholicism, the most culturally attractive form of Christianity that I have ever encountered, is bound to be no more than a preparatio evangelica to positions more coherent than itself. In its learning, its devotion, its sheer beauty, it is a preparation without equal, but no more. The matter can be put more positively. If I might paraphrase an old Anglo-Catholic, G. W. E. Russell, Sit anima mea cum sanctis: may my lot be with the Anglo-Catholic saints from whose lips I first learned of the doctrine of the Church.”
And so, in this view, Anglicanism is not the “finishing school” but a preparatio evangelica, the narthex, so to speak, on the way to the real thing. I read the Gilley article in a cab on the way downtown to have lunch with Monsignor Alfred Gilbey. He is the author of a number of books widely read in England (his We Believe will, he hopes, be coming out here soon), and something of a curmudgeonly legend. He was, as is his custom, nicely turned out in a cassock with purple piping and cummerbund, having just come from doing a television program with Mother Angelica. At age ninety-four, he was making his first visit to these shores, and seemed utterly fascinated by all he had seen in his first week. “I won’t wait so long before coming again,” he said. A luncheon partner turned the talk to the C of E and whether it was at last finished. “Oh nonsense,” said the Monsignor, sipping a very nice chardonnay. “It will last as long as England. It is England. One doesn’t join it for any reason, and one doesn’t have to have a reason to leave it. It’s the official cultural presentation of Christianity. It will go on and on.” Pausing, he added, “But of course one must understand that it has absolutely nothing to do with truth.”
A few years ago, a senior prelate of the C of E visited our offices. He had written extensively on secularization theory and professed himself to be a fan of my own work. “How,” I ventured in the course of conversation, “would you define the mission of the Church of England.” He paused for a moment and answered in most agreeable tone, “Well, I suppose it is to keep alive the Christian alternative for people who are interested in that sort of thing. There will always be some, you know.” It is only tenuously related to truth, but the charm of it cannot be denied. Sit anima mea cum sanctis. On the assumption, of course, that Anglicans, too, can be saved. (To protesting reader: What? You took that seriously? How very un-Anglican.)
That the self-described postmodernist Cornel West supposes the vocabularies of Marxism, Pragmatism, and Liberalism to be interchangeable is bad enough. But it is when West calls his whole postmodern Marxist-Pragmatist-Liberal muddle “Christianity,” and himself a “prophetic Christian freedom fighter,” that he makes it hard for thoughtful people to take him seriously. Leon Wieseltier of the New Republic, frequently a thoughtful person, has clearly had enough. A while back he had this to say: “The union of theory and practice, in West’s hands, becomes a union of pomposity and enthusiasm. . . . West skips undialectically from the seminar to the street, celebrating his connectedness. This has ridiculous results. . . . It does not escape his notice that ‘the agapic praxis of communities’ was abandoned in the late work of Marvin Gaye, and that a change in the image of the Temptations ‘could not give Motown egemonic status on fast funk.’“
But the most embarrassingly dated feature of West’s writing, according to Wieseltier, is his political theory. His “published work is an endless exercise in misplaced Marxism. . . . There is something puerile about West’s Marxism. . . . He writes like a man who refuses to accept the fact that he was born too late for a particular excitement. . . . It is hard to read West’s descriptions of, say, the Black Panthers as ‘the leading black lumpenproletarian revolutionary party of the sixties’ without recalling Trotsky’s oration to the ‘workers and peasants of the South Bronx.’“
It is fine for West to declare that he upholds “the Christocentric perspective which requires that one see the world through the lens of the Cross.” But when he adds that we “thereby see our relative victimizing and relative victimization,” he has changed Christianity into something different. “West is dead to difference,” Wieseltier writes. “He is a hero in a culture of morbidity, in which wounds are jewels. And his appropriation of what he calls ‘the Christocentric perspective’ for the politics of victimization in America is preposterous. It is banal at best, and it is blasphemous at worst, to describe the crucifixion of Jesus as victimization, in the sense in which we recognize victimization. No road runs from Calvary to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.”
From the Marxist-Pragmatist-Liberal muddle that West calls Christianity, West produces a remarkable notion of his role in the world. “My attempt to put flexible Marxist analysis on the agenda of the black churches is a pioneering endeavor,” he declares. Reminding us that his upbringing instilled in him an “ego-deflating humility,” he informs us that he is now a prophet, and “the mark of the prophet is to speak the truth in love with courage-come what may.” His prophetic criticism, he reports, “is partisan, partial, engaged and crisis-centered, yet always keeps open a skeptical eye to avoid dogmatic traps, premature closures, formulaic formulations, or rigid closures.” Wieseltier notes that West complains that nine taxis refused to take him to East Harlem where he was to be photographed among the masses for the dust cover of his latest book. West is indignant at the Manhattan cabbies, although he tells us, “I left my car-a rather elegant one-in a safe parking lot.” Wieseltier observes, “So the taxis would not take him where he would not take his car! This is not precisely what Gramsci had in mind.”
None of this silliness would be of much importance if major black social critics such as Glenn Loury, Stanley Crouch, and Shelby Steele were not so often denigrated in comparison with the much-celebrated Cornel West. “By overlooking [the social circumstances of American blacks],” West has written, “the new black conservatives fall into the trap of blaming poor black people for their predicament.” This is of course grotesquely unfair. “I do not hear them blaming people for being poor,” writes Wieseltier. “I hear them blaming people for abandoning families.” Without some understanding of social responsibility, there is no solution to the plight of American blacks in the muddle of West’s version of Christianity. Is Leon Wieseltier unfair? At the margins, probably. But it does seem that Mr. West should slow down and listen to what he is saying if he wants to avoid the fate of being dismissed as an upmarket Al Sharpton.
Michael Lind has moved from Harper’s to the New Republic, and in his first cover story as a senior editor he explains that there has been no conservative revolution, only a Republican coup taking over the South. The new Republicans, unlike the old, are anti-intellectual. As evidence of the high intellectual caliber of the old Republicans, Lind notes that “President James Garfield was fluent in Latin and Greek, Theodore Roosevelt wrote more than a dozen books . . . and Dwight Eisenhower was president of Columbia University.” There you have it. As everyone knows, Teddy Roosevelt’s adventure stories are the subject of elevated academic seminars to this very day. As for Garfield, Lind has to add the title President lest readers mistake the name for that of a famous movie star, so great has been James Garfield’s intellectual legacy. Best of all, though, is Eisenhower as president of Columbia. Lind is probably too young to remember the Columbia faculty’s embarrassment about his being given that post as a port of convenience for the months between the Army and the White House.
Lind allows that liberals are to blame for the Republican takeover of the South. “Liberals first nationalized issues like censorship, abortion, and gay rights, inadvertently calling into being national versions of the local religious pressure groups that used to lobby state legislatures.” But please understand, Lind insists, that issues like censorship, abortion, and gay rights have nothing to do with conservatism. It’s this Southern thing, you see. (It is encouraging, however, that the senior editor of the New Republic apparently believes that issues such as censorship, abortion, and gay rights should be returned to states and localities.) Democrats have to make clear, says Lind, that Republicans do not speak for a new American majority. In fact, the Republican Party “is little more than the mouthpiece for the least ‘American’ section of the country.”
That piece of bigotry triggers in Lind a vestigial liberal bias against bigotry, prompting him to ask, “Does this sound prejudiced?” In response to his own question, he offers the some-of-my-best-friends-are argument, noting that he is descended from men who fought for the Confederacy. “I would never suggest,” says Lind, “that Southerners, as such, be attacked or derided.” No prejudice there; it is only the South that is to be attacked and derided. Lind concludes: “Resisting the Southernization of America is a political task principled Southerners [a distinct minority, he makes clear] and Northerners [all of us, presumably] should be able to agree upon.” It is truly wondrous the lengths to which some people will go to deny that we are in the midst of a national conservative revival, even if it requires refighting the Civil War. The Standard, a weekly edited by Bill Kristol, has appeared just in time to provide us with a national magazine of thoughtful political and cultural opinion.
When the encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) appeared this spring, there was considerable confusion about what it said about capital punishment. The confusion was not caused by the language of the encyclical itself, which seemed to constitute only a prudential judgment that, in some contemporary circumstances, the death penalty is no longer necessary and therefore should not be used. The confusion came, rather, from press reports about Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger’s remarks when introducing the encyclical in Rome. These reports suggested that Ratzinger had said that the statements on the death penalty reflected a development of doctrine, and that the Catechism of the Catholic Church, issued only last year in English, would have to be revised in light of the encyclical. Many close readers of the encyclical did not discern any development of doctrine, and worried that a catechism that is subject to regular recall could not serve as a reliable guide to the Church’s official teaching.
So we asked Cardinal Ratzinger for a clarification, and are pleased to publish, with his permission, his response: “You ask about the correct interpretation of the teaching of the encyclical on the death penalty. Clearly, the Holy Father has not altered the doctrinal principles which pertain to this issue as they are presented in the Catechism, but has simply deepened the application of such principles in the context of present-day historical circumstances. Thus, where other means for the self-defense of society are possible and adequate, the death penalty may be permitted to disappear. Such a development, occurring within society and leading to the foregoing of this type of punishment, is something good and ought to be hoped for.
“In my statements during the presentation of the encyclical to the press, I sought to elucidate these elements, and noted the importance of taking such circumstantial considerations into account. It is in this sense that the Catechism may be rewritten, naturally without any modification of the relevant doctrinal principles.
“Of course it must be remembered that the substance of the text as approved by the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum is to remain unchanged; at the same time, however, the preparation of the editio typica, the official Latin text, affords the Church, as was explained when the vernacular versions were published, the opportunity to introduce small clarifications and minor improvements. While there is certainly no intention of including references to every document issued since the appearance of the Catechism, in the specific case of the Church’s teaching on capital punishment many opinions have been expressed in favor of an aggorniamento of the text in the light of the papal teaching in Evangelium Vitae. Such suggestions appear to be well-founded, consonant as they are with the substance of the text as it presently stands in the Catechism.”
The above clarification should be welcomed by Catholics who may in good faith disagree over whether the death penalty is necessary for the defense of society, and by the many other people who depend upon the constancy of the Church’s teaching. We expect it will not be so very welcome among those who have triumphantly declared that Evangelium Vitae condemns capital punishment, while they have at the same time largely ignored the encyclical’s forceful and unambiguous condemnation of abortion, euthanasia, and other crimes that characterize “the culture of death.”
During the debate over whether the U.S. should recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the editors of the New Republic, supporting the change, weighed in with a curious and potentially ominous argument. “Of course,” they wrote, “Jerusalem is sacred to the three monotheistic religions. But it is sacred with a difference. . . . Its meaning is not equal or them. In Christendom and Islam there are many spiritual centers and many symbolic capitals. In Judaism and for the Jewish people, there is only one Jerusalem. This establishes a special bond and a special right.” For Muslims, the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa Mosque is the third most holy site in the world, following Mecca and Medina. It is a grave injustice to Islam to refer to it dismissively as one of “many spiritual centers and many symbolic capitals.” As for Christians, it is both misleading and reckless for the editors to suggest that Christians do not have a special bond and right to Jerusalem. Misleading because, for Christians as for Jews, “there is only one Jerusalem.” The other four great patriarchal sees of Christendom (Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and Constantinople) are in no way comparable to the unique place of Jerusalem. True, Roman Catholics have a very special attachment to Rome, but just down the road from Jerusalem God became man; in Jerusalem the Son of God suffered, died, and rose again; and Jerusalem is the earthly precursor of the Heavenly City of eschatological hope. Christians, too, pray, “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!” (Psalm 137) This is not to suggest that Jerusalem is as important to most Christians as it is to most Jews. But nobody should make exclusive claims. In support of the unique claim of Jews to the city, the New Republic says that “there is also the fact that Jewish sons fought . . . for their nation’s reunion with its place of birth, and they won.” Well, it is also Christianity’s place of birth, and Christian sons also fought for it, and won, and possessed it for centuries. As, for that matter, did Muslim sons for a considerable period of time. Certainly for a longer period of time than Jews have possessed it in the last two millennia. If military victory establishes the right to possession, one notes that the still tenuous hold of Israel dates only from 1967. The suggested fit between moral claim and military success does not work, as Israel would be the first to point out were it ever, God forbid, to be militarily defeated.
• The Snarling Citizen is a book of essays of Barbara Ehrenreich, many of which appeared first in the Nation, the storm-tossed flagscow of the left. Publishers Weekly describes her as “a superlative writer” who challenges “political correctness and sloppy thinking.” Cited as an example is her differentiation between a cult and a religion. “Forty-eight people donning plastic and shooting themselves in the head is a ‘cult,’ while a hundred million people bowing before a flesh-hating elderly celibate is obviously a world-class religion.” “Before you can draw breath,” says PW, “she polishes off a few more sacred cows.” For instance: “A half dozen Trotskyists meeting over coffee is a ‘sect,’ while a few million gun-toting, Armageddon-ready Baptists are referred to as the Republican Party.” PW says that the reader “will have a roller coaster ride with these bracing doses of verbal purgative.” People taking purgatives are well advised to stay off roller coasters. • In a front page story in the New York Times, Dr. Henry W. Foster, Jr. reflects on his rejection by the Senate as Surgeon General. The issue was abortion, he says, noting that as an obstetrician he “actually had two patients.” That’s encouraging, but then this: “And sometimes one has to be given priority. And if a woman looks me in the eye if she has a pregnancy that’s going to take her life, I know what my choice is, both morally and legally, and I carry that out at the request of my patients.” Uh huh. Dr. Foster had some notable memory problems, it may be remembered. After describing in detail what a personally wrenching experience it was to do an abortion, he then seemed not able to recall whether he had done one, two, or, as it appeared in the end, possibly several hundred of them. But now he is more careful: “If a woman looks me in the eye if she has a pregnancy that’s going to take her life.” He was not rejected because he performed an abortion in a case where a pregnancy threatened the life of the mother, which almost never happens, and we can be quite sure never happened to him. He was rejected because he is a staunch supporter of abortion on demand, and because he appears to have a continuing problem with prevarication. • Ecumenism (although, for understandable reasons, some don’t like the term) is breaking out all over. Probably a “first,” according to Johann Christoph Arnold, Elder of the Hutterian Brethren in Rifton, New York, was a meeting with John Cardinal O’Connor of New York on March 4. Not in 450 years, he thinks, has there been such a meeting between Hutterites and a representative of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. He spoke to the Cardinal about the fierce persecutions Roman Catholics inflicted upon Hutterites in the Reformation era, and expressed his conviction that “from both sides we must seek reconciliation and forgiveness; it is so much better to set something right in this world than in the next.” Cardinal O’Connor expressed his desire to accept an invitation to speak to the Hutterite community (Bruderhof), which is located in the New York Archdiocese. The Hutterites operate the Plough Publishing House, which has recently published Discipleship by J. Heinrich Arnold, with a foreword by Father Henri Nouwen. For more information on their publications, write The Plough, Rd. 2, Box 446, Farmington, PA 15437. • The problem with the religious right, according to Fortune magazine, is that it has little or no use for big business. The cover story, “Today’s GOP: The Party is over for Big Business,” declares that “in a political arena now dominated by small business populists, anti-government conservatives, and the religious right, corporate America’s the odd man out-mistrusted, resented, impotent.” As one rightist is quoted, “Ours is the party of small business, not big business. Of Main Street, not Wall Street.” In the view of religious conservatives, corporate America has either absented itself from, or been on the wrong side of, the culture wars. Examining the corporate giving of the Fortune 500, the Capital Research Center finds that they give $3.42 to leftist organizations (including, in a big way, Planned Parenthood) for each dollar given to nonprofits on the right. A Fortune survey of CEOs finds that 22 percent of them are worried about the influence of the religious right, and 59 percent are adamantly pro-abortion-”A woman should be able to have an abortion if she wants one, no matter the reason.” It should come as no surprise that big business, which long ago embraced peaceful coexistence with big government, should be uncomfortable with the new populism. Many corporate executives are capitalists with a bad conscience about capitalism and are eager to demonstrate their “social responsibility” as responsibility is defined by the enemies of capitalism. In addition, in many cities the Planned Parenthood gala is one of the big tickets of the social season for people who would not be caught dead at a right-to-life meeting. The only surprising thing is that journalists are still surprised by a conservatism that does not conform to the formulaic assumption that conservatives like big business. It is not inconceivable, however, that the social conservatism that is transforming our political culture may, in time, begin to reach even the boardroom. • “I argue that in American culture, on the whole, language of the sacred, even language of God, can be pragmatically justified.” That’s a relief; religion is given another reprieve. Even language about God!-although only “on the whole,” of course. The above bold assertion is offered by William Dean, professor of religion at Gustavus Adolphus College (Lutheran), in his new book The Religious Critic in American Culture (State University of New York Press). Dean is reviewed by United Methodist Philip Blackwell in the pages of Christian Century, who likes the book very much. Says Blackwell, “Many of us cannot in good faith subscribe to the claims of Christianity in a literal way, but we refuse to throw out the essential truths carried by the tradition. We are left to make something of the conventions of our faith.” A convention is defined “as a social tradition that has developed through several generations. It is neither a claim to an objective and universal truth nor the exercise of arbitrary and subjective willfulness.” It seems that the religious tradition that will come to the rescue of American culture has been developed over several generations, going back all the way to the ancients of the late nineteenth century. While its adherents do not subscribe to it in any literal sense and it is not “true” in any ordinary meaning of the term, it is nonetheless the bearer of “essential truths.” Lest we suspect him of rigid adherence to an authoritarian tradition, Blackwell assures us that “conventions are revised continually by present interpretations.” People who think the way he does, Blackwell suggests, are the answer to his question, “In a culture that has lost its bearings, who can speak a word of confident direction?” It would appear that another Great Awakening may be on the way, what with people like Dean and Blackwell who are sensitively revising the, er, essential, so to speak, truths, as it were, of religious conventions constructed by three or more generations of liberal Protestantism. Blackwell concludes: “At a time when people are so desperate for stability that they try to recreate a past that never existed, who can show a new way forward? In a public conversation where talk of the sacred often is embarrassing, cynical, or self-serving, who can reclaim the noble vocabulary of our shared conventions? Dean says that it can be done, and that it must be done quickly or we will lose the conventional wisdom that has brought us this far.” The conventional wisdom that brought us to our present sorry pass has, in fact, lost its hold on more thoughtful Christians. Nonetheless, folk like Dean and Blackwell who are so desperate to believe that, in the absence of truth, their religion might still have some social utility will continue to console themselves with conventional nostrums such as “on the whole, language of the sacred, even language of God, can be pragmatically justified.” • The picture we see when we close our eyes and try to imagine the New Jerusalem, we have to admit, looks a lot like New York-a New York cleaned up considerably, it’s true, and with less traffic and fewer pigeons, but recognizably New York nonetheless. Now, we never supposed that our picture of the heavenly city is exactly the same as anyone else’s-lots of people don’t live in New York, and some people even live in California-but it seems we may have been too hasty in modestly supposing our vision to be unique. Some months ago New York magazine carried a report of Hollywood stars and executives moving to New York, drawn back by the theaters, the restaurants, the variety of people, and the churches. “There is not much of a [Catholic] community for us in LA,” one actor reports. “For us as people who want our kids to know what it’s about, here [in NY] there are not only gorgeous, wonderful churches that are showing the art and playing the music, but also fabulously intelligent and gifted people who are practicing Catholics the kids can identify with.” “My heart is in the East, while I am in the uttermost West,” quotes the Jewish president of one film production company. “To me, the Diaspora begins in New Jersey.” • We have no hard data on the question, but suspect that few of our readers also read Rolling Stone. For which reason we are indebted to John Farrell of Braintree, Mass. who does. A recent issue featured rock star Dolores O’Riordan, a lady from Limerick who wears about twenty earrings and is lead singer of the Cranberries, a group that is, says Mr. Farrell, on its way to becoming No. 1 on some chart or the other. She appears to be a person of definite views, including this from the article: “And don’t count on O’Riordan as an ally in defending abortion: ‘I’m in no position to judge other women, you know? But, I mean, “Idiot-why didn’t you not get pregnant?” It’s not good for women to go through the procedure and have something living sucked out of your bodies. It belittles women-even though some women say, “Oh, I don’t mind to have one.” Every time a woman has an abortion, it just crushes her self-esteem, smaller and smaller and smaller.’“ Rolling Stone yet. How au courant dare we be? • The editors of the Globe and Mail of Toronto do some heavy-duty pondering on what-it-all-means under the title “The Ongoing Quest for Meanings.” Democracy and capitalism seem to have carried the day, but that victory may be challenged from “outside the box.” By that phrase they mean “the paradigm of social discourse as we have conceived it. In modern times, the box in which we have conducted our political lives has been largely secular. The victory of democratic capitalism within that box may well be challenged by religious or spiritual movements outside it.” Hmm. They seem not to have considered that democratic capitalism may find its surest foundation in religion, which is the argument of the 1991 encyclical Centesimus Annus. The editors go on to worry that the stage may be set for serious confrontation “if religious matters return to the public realm,” which is what they see happening in the U.S. They continue: “On its own, ethnicity is a form of secular-spiritualism, religion without God, identity without faith. Where religious revivals do not take hold, ethnic ones may. The politics of identity does not require a church.” It is not clear whether they favor such ethnic revival over the return of religion to the public realm. We hope not, since we have had in this century some rather unhappy experiences with the pseudo-religion of ethnicity. National Socialism, for instance. The editors conclude: “We need keep our guard, in this context, against the claims of conviction over knowledge, faith over ideas, purity over tolerance of the diversity that makes us whole.” There is another way of thinking about these things. For instance, conviction grounded in knowledge, faith as assent to ideas that are true, and a morality that requires tolerance of diversity. The Globe and Mail’s way of putting the alternatives is very neatly, and tightly, within the paradigm box of modern secular discourse. As for what “makes us whole,” it is precisely the genius of the biblical tradition that it holds out no hope of that happening short of the coming of the Kingdom of God. But the editorial is more thoughtful than the customary newspaper fare, and we do hope that the editors’ ongoing quest for meanings will be ongoing. • Marriage is bad for liberalism, or so it seems. “Ed Miller of the Luntz Research Companies tells the Women’s Quarterly that his company’s polling data reveals a ‘marriage gap’ in voting last November: Married people were more likely to have voted Republican than their single counterparts. ‘A majority of married voters, both with (55 percent) and without kids (53 percent), cast GOP ballots,’ he reports. ‘Singles with no kids were split between the two major parties, with 43 percent for each. Singles with kids were slightly more likely to vote Democratic than Republican (45 percent vs. 43 percent).’ Miller notes that single parents are more likely to be women than men.” The Women’s Quarterly is a combatively humorous new publication that is well worth a look. The lead article in this issue is “That’s No White Male, That’s My Husband.” For information, write Independent Women’s Forum, 2111 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 550, Arlington, VA 22201-3057. • Some moral crusades pay very well indeed. The New York Times reports on “legal buccaneers” who have banded together in the hope of extracting billions of dollars from the tobacco companies in class action suits. “Close to sixty prominent law firms known for so-called toxic torts are contributing $100,000 each to a consortium, filling an annual war chest of nearly $6 million. ‘The good of the whole enterprise has transcended the individual egos,’ said Ronald L. Motley, who has won billions of dollars in damages against the asbestos industry in the last decade.” The lawyers include the King of Torts (Melvin M. Belli), the Master of Disaster (Stanley M. Chesley), Bhopal Coale (John P. Coale), and the Asbestos Avenger (Motley). “I am a pirate,” Mr. Coale said proudly. “I have been described as an ambulance chaser, and I don’t disagree.” Paul Huard, who lobbied Congress to make tort law less favorable to legal pirates, said, “The assumption is that nothing is ever an accident and no one is at fault for their actions. A large part of this is fostered by the trial bar.” Law professor Kenneth Abraham of the University of Virginia observes, “The real clients in a class action are the attorneys. The cynical view would be that class actions are a form of blackmail” intended to make companies settle quickly. Belli and his fellow buccaneers do not even pretend to challenge that cynical view. As the Apostle put it, they glory in their shame. • “Your problem,” a pro-life member of Congress was recently told, “is that you’re hung up by single-issue politics.” The member in question had indicated that she was prepared to oppose an important bill if it included support for abortion. She has this habit of carrying around clippings and, in response to her critic, she pulled out this one from the New York Times of August 24, 1994: “Because of Louisiana’s ban on financing abortions for victims of rape and incest, the Clinton Administration has threatened to cut off $3 billion in Medicaid money that pays for health care for 600,000 people.” Now that is single-issue politics. • Decline? What decline? Going up against what “everybody knows,” James D. Davidson of Purdue University has produced a study purporting to show that the influence of mainline Protestantism is not slipping. Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and members of the United Church of Christ are still represented in the several American establishments way out of proportion to their numbers in the general population. “If you stepped into a board meeting of a business giant,” says Davidson, “our research shows that you still would find several Episcopalians, a few Presbyterians, probably a Jew, and a Catholic, and no Baptists.” All very interesting, but how many of them are in church on Sunday? And what bearing does their personal status and power have on the social influence of the churches of which they are members? The numerous studies that Davidson aims to counter got it right: The decline of oldline Protestantism gives every evidence of being in uninterrupted free-fall. • This item is left over from the 1994 meeting of the Episcopal House of Bishops. During the debate on a pastoral letter dealing with sexuality, Bishop William Frey observed: “It’s evident we’re not prepared to teach much of anything, because we disagree on the meaning of so many words. We’ve been doing theology in a Hegelian fashion for so long that the center keeps shifting. Today I can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ and that’s the thesis. Someone else can say ‘Jesus is not Lord’ and that’s the antithesis. The Anglican via media then becomes ‘Jesus is occasionally Lord.’ I would like a clear admission that we are unclear.” • This from the medical journal Lancet: “The Dutch Supreme Court this week recognized that euthanasia or assisted suicide could be necessary for patients with mental suffering, and it ruled that doctors should consult a colleague before reaching such a decision, as is the case for patients with unbearable physical suffering. However, for patients with mental suffering, the Supreme Court says that the independent expert should actually examine the patient.” Unless, of course, it is an emergency. • Terrible Honesty is Ann Douglas’ intriguing new book on New York in the 1920s, reviewed by Janet Marsden in these pages. In an interview, Ms. Douglas reflects on why it is so difficult for rebels of today to be honest in the way that “the lost generation” of the 1920s thought they were being terribly honest. “What is irretrievably lost, says Ms. Douglas, is what she calls ‘terrible honesty’-a relentless effort to root out and eliminate the falsehoods ingrained in our national psyche. ‘To believe in it, you have to think there is a truth that can be found, and that’s not a postmodernist position,’ she explained. ‘You have to be closer to religious origins-the generation of the twenties was truly secular in that it still knew its theology and its varieties of religious experience. We are post-secular, inventing new faiths, without any sense of organizing truths. The truths we accept are so multiple that honesty becomes little more than a strategy by which you manage your tendencies toward duplicity.’ “ • After less than three years, the Rev. John Pridonoff has resigned as executive director of the Hemlock Society, the premier organization promoting the elimination of Lebens unvertesleben, life not worthy of life. A United Church of Christ minister, Pridonoff sought to “moderate the image of the organization” by providing religious reasons for euthanasia, in order to counter the formidable religious opposition to Hemlock and all its works and all its ways (along with its sentimental pomps, of course). It did not seem to work very well. Under Pridonoff’s leadership, membership dropped from from 57,000 to 40,000, although he says it is because he counts membership in a way different from his predecessor, Hemlock founder Derek Humphry. Humphry counted as a member anyone who gave money, while Pridonoff counted only those who paid the $35
annual dues or $275 lifetime memberships. Lifetime membership in the Hemlock Society strikes us as a dubious investment. • And we have a winner in the Moral Equivalency Contest. The headline in the New York Times reads, “Amendment to Protect Flag Wins House Panel’s Approval.” The sidebar reads, “In the balance: a cherished icon and a cherished right.” Ah yes, how to resolve the conflict between those attached to two grand old American traditions, saluting the flag and burning it. • We’re in the process of doing a new survey of subscribers. If you are one of those randomly chosen to get the questionnaire, please do help by filling it out and returning it promptly. We will of course share pertinent findings with all our readers. One thing we know about our readers already: don’t say anything even mildly critical about the Catholic side of the troubles in Northern Ireland, unless you want a torrent of protest letters. All we did, actually, was quote a Brit who said that Gerry Adams of Sinn Fein, and great friend of President Clinton, has not come clean about the blood on his hands. Maybe it was the fact that we were quoting a Brit. It’s hard to get around the fact that Sinn Fein, which commands no more than 10 percent of the vote among Catholics in Northern Ireland, enjoys the clout it does because of the reality and threat of violence. That’s ordinarily called terrorism, and it doesn’t make any moral difference whether it’s terrorism in what one thinks is a good cause. Or that there’s terrorism on the other side. In any event, here’s an interview with Mr. Adams that should give pause to serious Catholics. Speaking to Reality, the journal of the Irish Redemptorists, Adams declares himself an “a la carte Catholic” who would like to see a “Catholic Church with a Presbyterian structure.” (And he’s on the Catholic side of the troubles over there?) Mr. Adams says he does believe in God, and thinks it useful “to reflect and be contemplative.” “I think that some of the Catholic ceremonies actually aid that,” he generously allows. Asked whom he “admired,” he lists Jesus Christ along with Nelson Mandela and Bobby Sands, but said that his greatest inspiration comes from the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the protests of the 1960s. Mr. Adams has also indicated that he thinks socialism is the necessary future of Ireland, and he deplores the fact that so many people think that the collapse of the Evil Empire has discredited the socialist ideal. (Letters of protest should be directed to Managing Editor Matthew Berke, who is in charge of diplomatic responses.) • The contents page of the June 19 New Yorker: “The Road to Paranoia. Why do millions of Americans suddenly think that the government is the enemy? The author traces how the fringe left and right found common ground with the mainstream.” Now let’s see, who does that leave out? • The head of the Science and Human Dimension project at Cambridge, England, John Cornwell, writes in the Tablet that genetic research is moving at such a pace that the ethical disputes of even ten years ago now seem ancient. That was when people started genetic screening with a view toward aborting the unfit. Now researchers concentrate on gene markers, looking for “norms” of human behavior, e.g., violence, criminality, and levels of intelligence. Plans are in the works for interventions that will alter genes by “carrier” techniques in test tubes and fully developed human beings-techniques that will transmit “corrections” on the backs of harmless viruses. “The prospect of a supermarket of designer genes-both for the sick and the healthy-is not far off, and along with it a new set of social and ethical questions. Who will benefit from the new genetic therapies? How is the gold rush for gene patenting to be controlled? Do insurers have a right to know our individual genetic makeup? Will genetic screening create a new underclass of the uninsurable and unemployable? Do we have a right not to know our genetic futures? Should we be allowed to choose the intelligence level, the height, the hair color, the sexual orientation of our children? Is a new dark age of eugenics looming?” Some years ago I wrote a much-reprinted article on these questions, “The Return of Eugenics” (Commentary, April 1988). Among the troubling things is that thoughtful people keep repeating the questions, wringing their hands with moral earnestness, and come up with the conclusion that we should all be terribly anguished about these matters. True enough, but one wonders whether it is getting us anywhere worth getting to. In recent months, a very broad assortment of religious leaders in this country came out for the legal prohibition of gene patenting, and we will be returning to that in these pages. Meanwhile, readers can prepare themselves for the controversies ahead by rereading C. S. Lewis’ The Abolition of Man (available in several anthologies), Leon Kass’ Toward a More Natural Science, and John Paul II’s eleventh encyclical, Evangelium Vitae, on “the culture of death.” These are not exercises in futurism. The future is now. (The foregoing item is offered in the event that you have been having a nice day so far.) • A mission tour of Lutheran churches in Slovakia is scheduled for April 10-25, 1996. For information, contact Pr. Dan Biles, Box 449, Bendersville, PA. 17306. This is close to our heart because it is connected with our friend Pr. Paul Hinlicky, a Lutheran seminary professor in Slovakia who is doing, among many other things, some pioneering work in opening up Lutheran-Roman Catholic theological dialogue in that country. • The perception is that Senator D. Patrick Moynihan of New York, who for decades was considered an expert on these matters, has been sidelined in the current debate over welfare reform. He is out of sync with both Republicans and Democrats in his belief that welfare should be viewed as an entitlement. He told the New York Times, “I just do what the Catholic bishops tell me. Write that down. They’ve been at this a hell of a lot longer than anyone else.” He later called the reporter to amend his remarks to a less sweeping statement: “I follow the Catholic bishops on this.” A good thing, too, since Moynihan has a consistent, and as yet publicly unexplained, pro-abortion voting record. • The last line is the payoff in William McGurn’s Wall Street Journal review of two books on the 1960s. The one by Terry H. Anderson (The Movement and the Sixties) is a celebration of that period as a sustained moral protest against all that is wrong with the world. The other, by Tom Pauken (The Thirty Years War: The Politics of the Sixties Generation), is an account of one man’s disillusionment with that protest. Near the beginning of his book, Mr. Pauken explains why he refused a student deferment and went to Vietnam: “My convictions left me no choice.” Then this by William McGurn: “I wonder if that is not the main difference between Mr. Pauken and many of his contemporaries, including Bill Clinton: For when the crunch came, their convictions always seemed to leave them a great deal of choice.” • Scott Appleby of Notre Dame wrote a thoughtful piece for the Tablet on the forces of cultural conservatism in American politics, and the formidable Father Andrew Greeley jumped all over him in a letter to the editor. “To count the entire evangelical and fundamentalist wing of American religion (about 20 percent of the people) as part of the ‘Religious Right’ is demonstrably false and moreover a stereotype-as Hillary Clinton pointed out in an interview with Newsweek,” Fr. Greeley writes. Actually, Appleby didn’t say what Fr. Greeley says he said, but the impressive thing here is the compounding of authorities. Greeley by himself is formidable but, in combination with Hillary Clinton, the matter is clearly put beyond reasonable dispute. Fr. Greeley has over the years protested thousands of times that he is a scientist. While others are swayed by bias or wishful thinking, his conclusions are based on rigorous analysis of the evidence. This is evident in his letter to the Tablet: “The only good thing about [Appleby’s] analysis is that it may encourage the activists of the Christian Right to take possession of the Republican Party at the next convention in 1996 and give the election to Bill Clinton on a silver platter.” That, presumably, is an outcome that would be approved also by Fr. Greeley’s esteemed colleague in the social sciences, Dr. Hillary Clinton. • We do not want to seem unfair to poor Father Greeley, who is, after all, a full professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, but this item turned up in the stacks quite by accident (truly) just after we wrote the above. It is a July 1994 column in the Los Angeles Times that appeared at the height of the debate over Hillary Clinton’s plan for universal health care. (What, you don’t remember the famous health plan?) Fr. Greeley is taking the Catholic bishops to task for opposing the inclusion of abortion in the plan. “The bishops would earn more respect and would be much more effective if they focused on ethical education and persuasion instead of attempting to launch a political campaign that will earn them the blame if universal health care reform is defeated.” A year later, everyone recognizes the burden of shame borne by the bishops for their part in foiling Mrs. Clinton’s plan, which enjoyed such overwhelming public support. Greeley’s column continued: “My argument with the bishops and those who support them is tactical and prudential-I know all about prudence since at the seminary I attended it was deemed the most important of virtues. Why get into a fight that you will lose and that will interfere with other more potentially effective tactics?” The master of prudence also had some positive suggestions: “Why did the bishops not oppose for the record abortion coverage in national health care but refrain from an elaborate campaign that is doomed to failure? Why not concentrate on education and persuasion? Why not try to dialogue with the men and women on the other side?” It is not simply the prudence, but also the rock-like certitude and ability to come up with heretofore unconsidered possibilities that inspires a certain awe in the presence of Father Andrew Greeley, social scientist. • “This book should be read by everybody . . .” Fill in the blank: everybody interested in astrophysics, everybody who plays left-handed badminton, and so forth. It’s a cliche ending for book reviews which sometimes sneaks by even our astute editors. So Publishers Weekly reviews Family Secrets by John Bradshaw (pitchman for the “inner child” and other placebos) and ends with this: “Important reading for anyone who has children or grew up with parents.” In the world of New York publishing, that means the book is pitched to the minority labelled “traditional.” • The nastiness is offputting, but of more importance is the remarkable ignorance revealed. The editors of the New Republic are complaining that the Washington Post ran an op-ed piece by Charles Colson who is complaining, in turn (and with considerable justification), about the media’s mistreatment of “the religious right.” The New Republic editors recount Colson’s role in the evil doings of Watergate and then declare: “It’s one thing to allow Colson, having done his time, to get on with his life; it’s another to allow him to capitalize on his ignominy in order to disseminate his views.” The impression left with those readers who may be as ignorant as the editors of the New Republic is that here is a criminal who got out of jail yesterday and immediately uses his notoriety to claim a prestigious public platform. The fact is that Chuck Colson completed his seven-month term in January 1975. To the rest of us that is twenty years ago, but to the editors of the New Republic it is just yesterday. (Another instance of liberal nostalgia for the bad old days?) Given the chance “to get on with his life,” what has Colson done? In these twenty years he has established Prison Fellowship. Far and away the largest program working at transforming the lives of inmates, Prison Fellowship has more than fifty thousand volunteers working in prisons in sixty-nine countries around the world. In addition, in these years Colson has, among other things, published twelve books that have sold approximately six million copies, has established a Christian radio program that is carried by more than three hundred stations, and has received the distinguished Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion. As for “capitalizing on his ignominy,” all his royalties and speaking fees are given to Prison Fellowship. In the many worlds of evangelical Protestantism and beyond, Chuck Colson has over these twenty years earned an influence that is, quite possibly, next only to that of Billy Graham. But to the editors of the New Republic, those worlds do not exist, or do not matter. For them, it will be forever: “Charles W. Colson, Watergate crook extraordinaire, who pleaded guilty in 1974 to obstruction of justice in connection with the burglary of Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office.” (Remember Daniel Ellsberg? Remember his psychiatrist?) The editors of National Review once declared it their purpose to stand athwart history and yell Stop. For the editors of the New Republic history stopped a long time ago. No wonder they sound so put out when things keep happening. • Call it coincidence, but stories in the paper sometimes do appear in remarkable symmetry. This from the Washington Post: “Teen Accused of Trying to Blow Up Mother.” It seems this fifteen-year-old girl was so angry with her mother’s refusal to stop smoking that she left the gas stove on in the hope that her mother would light a cigarette and blow up the house. The same day from the New York Times: “Evolution of Humans May at Last Be Faltering.” It figures. • A couple of issues ago we joshed an evangelical publishing house that specializes in books giving an explicitly biblical and Christian justification for things that do not need any such justification. We suggested their next title might be, A Christian Guide to Coming In Out of the Rain. Robert Gibson sends us the bulletin of Grace Lutheran Church, Thornville, Ohio, that schedules on Thursday evenings “Christian Aerobics.” Lutherans of all people should know that activities appropriate to the order of creation do not require Christian legitimation. Was it not Luther who said, “I would rather exercise with a sleek Turk than with a flabby Christian”? The same bulletin lists as the sermon hymn for that Sunday, “There’s a Wilderness in God’s Mercy.” It does sometimes seem that way.
Sources: Dennis Prager on his yeshiva education, Ultimate Issues, vol. 1, 1995. Sheridan Gilley on the end of Anglo-Catholicism, Tablet, March 18, 1995. Leon Wieseltier on Cornel West, New Republic, March 6, 1995. Michael Lind on the conservative revolution, New Republic, June 19, 1995. New Republic editorial on Jerusalem, June 5, 1995; comments on “ethnic cleansing” in the Tablet, May 20, 1995. While We’re At It: Publishers Weekly on Barbara Ehrenreich, February 20, 1995. On Dr. Henry W. Foster, Jr., New York Times, June 23, 1995. Philip Blackwell review of William Dean book, Christian Century, March 1, 1995. Hollywood stars returning to Manhattan, New York, February 20, 1995. Dolores O’Riordan quoted in Rolling Stone, March 22, 1995. Editorial in Toronto Globe and Mail, March 18, 1995. On “marriage gap,” Women’s Quarterly, Spring 1995. On “legal buccaneers,” New York Times, March 6, 1995. James D. Davidson on mainline decline, Christian Century, December 21-28, 1994. Bishop William Frey quoted in Christian Challenge, October/November 1994. Euthanasia ruling by Dutch Supreme Court, cited in Lancet, June 25, 1994. On the Hemlock Society, Life at Risk, May 1995. On flag-burning amendment, New York Times, June 8, 1995. Gerry Adams interview reported in Tablet, June 3, 1995. John Cornwell on eugenics, Tablet, May 27, 1995. Senator Moynihan quoted in New York Times, June 18, 1995. William McGurn review of Terry Anderson, Wall Street Journal, June 8, 1995. Andrew Greeley letter to Tablet, December 24, 1994. Andrew Greeley on abortion, Los Angeles Times, July 25, 1994. On book Family Secrets by John Bradshaw, Publishers Weekly, April 10, 1995. On Charles Colson, New Republic, May 29, 1995. Washington Post article on teen who tries to blow up mother, and New York Times on the end of evolution, both March 14, 1995.