The Public Square
As society became more modern, it became more secular. That sentence has about it a certain of courseness. It or its equivalent is to be found in numerous textbooks from grade school through graduate school. The connection between modernization and secularization is taken for granted. Christian Smith, professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina, challenges what everybody knows in an important new collection of essays by several sociologists and historians, The Secular Revolution: Power, Interests, and Conflict in the Secularization of American Public Life (University of California Press, 484 pages,, $60). The challenge is not novel with Smith. Social scientists who had long propounded secularization theory, Peter L. Berger very notably among them, have in recent years undergone a major change of mind. The contribution of Smith’s big book is in his detailed analysis of the dubious (sometimes contrary to fact) assumptions underlying the theory, and in the case studies he and his colleagues present showing how various interest groups have employed the theory in the service of their own quest for power, usually at the expense of religion and religious institutions.
There are, writes Smith, seven crucial and related defects in conventional secularization theory. Over-abstraction : the literature of the theorists routinely spoke of differentiation, autonomization, privatization, and other abstract, if not abstruse, dynamics disengaged from concrete factors of social change such as interests, ideologies, institutions, and power conflicts. Lack of human agency : the theory was big on process without protagonists. It depicted secularization without secularizers. According to the theory, secularization just happens. Overdeterministic inevitability : Religion’s marginalization from public life is portrayed as a natural or inevitable process like cell mitosis or adolescent puberty. Secularization theory reflects a view of linear social evolution in the tradition of Comte and Spencer. If there is one truth that history teaches us beyond doubt, wrote the great Durkheim, it is that religion tends to embrace a smaller and smaller portion of social life. Any questions, class?
Idealist intellectual history : here the history of ideas is determinative. Owen Chadwick’s The Secularization of the European Mind (note the focus on the mind) puts the primary explanatory emphasis on the philosophy of liberalism, evolutionary theory, Marxist ideology, and so forth. Smith writes, Culture, philosophy, and intellectual systems certainly matter. But they cannot be abstracted from the real historical, social, political, legal, and institutional dynamics through which they worked and were worked upon. Romanticized history : there was in the view of secularization theorists an age of faith”for instance, the thirteenth century”which was succeeded and displaced by the age of reason and modernity. Then everything was religious; now everything, or at least everything that matters in public, is secular. Against that view, anthropologist Mary Douglas writes: Secularization is often treated as a modern trend. But the contrast of secular with religious has nothing whatsoever to do with the contrast of modern with traditional or primitive. The idea that primitive man is by nature deeply religious is nonsense. The truth is that all of the varieties of skepticism, materialism, and spiritual fervor are found in the range of tribal societies. They vary as much from one another on these lines as any chosen segment of London life.
An overemphasis on religious self-destruction : Berger’s 1967 The Sacred Canopy suggested that the Judeo-Christian tradition carried the seeds of secularization within itself. Ancient Israel’s monotheism began the secularization process by historicizing and rationalizing ethics, a process which Catholicism temporarily restrained but which the Protestant Reformation returned to full force in bringing about a disenchanted (Weber) world. A host of theorists agreed that the Reformation and the cultural exhaustion following the wars of religion hastened the process of secularization. While not discounting such claims entirely, Smith writes, What most versions of secularization theory overlook is the important role played by other, nonreligious and antireligious actors in the process of secularization. At the very least, our analytical framework should include room to account for all the players who may have been involved in a process of change.
Seventh and finally, underspecified causal mechanisms : the influential Bryan Wilson, for example, simply asserted the incompatibility of modernity and religion: The moral intimations of Christianity do not belong to a world ordered by conveyor belts, time-and-motion studies, and bureaucratic organizations. The very thought processes which these devices demand of men leave little place for the operation of the divine. One is reminded of the demythologizing New Testament scholar Rudolf Bultmann and his dictum that a man who knows how to work a light switch cannot believe in divine causality. Again, it was Berger who wrote very persuasively, thirty and more years ago, about the powerful linkage between social structure and consciousness. To all this Smith responds: But sociologists and historians give too little attention to explaining exactly how and why these social changes had their supposed detrimental effects on religion. Exactly why did urbanization or technological developments have to undermine religious authority? Exactly how did industrialization and immigration work to produce religious privatization? Why should we treat these as some kind of great gears of history’ that inexorably grind their way toward religious privatization? Rather than all nodding our scholarly heads together in what could be premature analytical closure, we need to go back and force ourselves to answer these questions again.
The seven defects specified by Smith in an older secularization theory”a theory, be it noted, still espoused by many”are sometimes overlapping, and one cannot lightly dismiss elements of truth, or at least of suggestiveness, in that older theory. But Smith is certainly right in warning against premature analytical closure and in directing our attention to other factors in the exclusion of religion from public life. He lists a number of questions calling for further exploration. Who, in fact, were the actors who agitated for a naked public square, and what were the grievances or desired benefits that drove their activism? What ideologies were employed, and what institutional and political circumstances favored their success? On what material resources did they draw, and how did they frame arguments in a manner that served their cause? What organizational structures provided them with an identity and moral community in furthering the secularization they sought?
Traditions and Delusions
Smith cites Edward Shils, who wrote that Western intellectuals have generally moved within one of four intellectual traditions: scientism, romanticism, apocalypticism, or populism. American intellectuals have worked mainly in the first two traditions. The meaning of scientism may seem self-evident, but Shils on the romantic tradition deserves a quotation at length:
The romantic tradition appears at first sight to be in irreconcilable opposition to the tradition of scientism . . . . In many important respects, however, they share fundamental features. Romanticism starts with the appreciation of the spontaneous manifestations of the essence of concrete individuality. Hence, it values originality, i.e., the unique, that which is produced from the genius of the individual, in contrast with the stereotyped and traditional action of the philistine . . . . Institutions which have rules and which prescribe the conduct of the individual members by conventions and commands are likewise viewed as life-destroying. The bourgeois family, mercantile activity, the market, indeed civil society in general, with its curb on enthusiasm and its sober acceptance of obligation, are repugnant to the romantic tradition”all are the enemies of spontaneity and genuineness; they impose a role on the individual and do not permit him to be himself. The affinities of the romantic tradition to the revolutionary criticism of the established order are obvious. It, too [along with scientism], is one of the most explosive antiauthoritarian powers of modern intellectual life.
In the early twentieth century, the aggressive secularizers found an important ally in the leaders of liberal Protestantism, says Smith. Liberal Protestant clergy were important players in the secularization struggles. But the liberal Protestant capitulation was a response to something . It was a (not very successful) survival strategy in relation to an external challenge. The secularizing activists would, in time, dispense with their liberal Protestant allies when they were no longer needed in advancing the cause. William James foresaw the new circumstance in a speech to a college audience in 1907: We alumni and alumnae of the colleges are the only permanent presence [in America] that corresponds to the aristocracy in older countries. We have continuous traditions, as they have; our motto, too, is noblesse oblige ; and, unlike them, we stand for ideal interests solely, for we have no corporate selfishness and wield no powers of corruption. We ought to have our own class-consciousness. Les Intellectuels ! What prouder club name could there be than this one? Almost a century later, as incredible as it may seem, that is precisely how many in the academy see themselves.
As I have had occasion to write elsewhere, even as liberal Protestantism was capitulating to the secularizers, it exhibited an overweening self-confidence about its cultural hegemony. Smith provides delicious quotes. Methodist Bishop Edward Thompson in 1870 told an audience that he foresaw in the not-too-distant future an America that would be without an adulterer, or a swearer, or a Sabbath-breaker, or an ingrate, or an apostate, or a backslider, or a slanderer; hundreds of thousands of homes without a prodigal, a quarrel or heartburn, or a bitter tear. Thirty years later, the head of the American Board for Foreign Missions declared that Christianity is the religion of the dominant nations of the earth. Nor is it rash to prophesy that in due time it will be the only religion in the world. Northern Baptist leader Samuel Batten wrote in 1909 that, of the three great facts of modern society”Christianity, the state, and democracy”Christianity was the most potent force in our modern civilization.And so it went. Even as aggressive secularizers were bringing the public potency of religion down around their ears, religious leaders were incapable of seeing what was happening. As I have also had occasion to write, in an exercise of cultural catch-up not a few Catholic leaders today seem incapable of understanding what is happening to Catholicism in this country. With serene self-confidence, they speak of making progressive accommodations as they progressively capitulate. But that is a story for another time.
In framing the public argument, says Smith, the secularizers succeeded brilliantly in defining religion as sectarian. Having once been a tool in the hands of dominant Protestants to exclude versions of faith that did not serve their purposes, the term sectarian was commandeered by rising secularizers to expurgate religion per se from the public sphere. In the past half century, one notes, the term sectarian has been regularly used by the courts to that end. The late John Rawls prescribed that comprehensive accounts of reality”e.g., religious accounts”are disqualified as legitimate public discourse. They are sectarian. Smith usefully describes how corporate capitalism and its related philanthropies were, in the first part of the twentieth century, employed very overtly to exclude religious institutions of higher education and to exclude religion from those that were not expressly religious. This supplements the thesis of James Burtchaell’s masterful The Dying of the Light , in which he carefully documents the often subtle ways in which religious leadership surrendered colleges and universities to secularist orthodoxy.
Revolutions and Counterrevolutions
The Secular Revolution includes chapters by various authors on the success of the secularizers in public schools, in turning back the politics of moral reform, in shaping jurisprudence, and in the ascendancy of a self-consciously secular media. On the last, Richard Flory nicely documents the ways in which journalistic professionalization went hand in hand with secularization. According to the doctrine of the professionalizers, journalism was uniquely essential to civilization; the evolution from primitive to professional journalism was inevitable; journalism was the educator of the masses; religion was reduced to morality and ethics, and all religions were to be treated equally; professional journalism was the functional equivalent of and successor to religion. As Flory shows, journalists were very explicitly instructed in these doctrines, and he illustrates the effectiveness of the instruction in the treatment of religion in the New York Times over the past century.
The several chapters are of uneven quality, some claiming to prove too much and others missing obvious instances that support their argument. Not all the other authors are as astute as Christian Smith in recognizing that the secularizing activists did have legitimate grievances against the liberal Protestant hegemony. My impression is that Smith understands that this revolution, like most revolutions, sometimes had commendable goals which were perverted by the obtuseness of the establishment against which it was revolting.
The Secular Revolution is of great value for two reasons. It effectively debunks secularization theories based upon abstract and impersonal forces that presumably make the triumph of secularism inevitable. And it restores the human dimension of secularization. It returns the subject of secularization to history, with all its conflicts, rivalries, ambitions, grievances, and political strategies. Secularization did not just happen. The naked public square was not predetermined. The naked public square is precisely what many people in positions of influence wanted, and it is what they largely achieved. Successful revolutions are vulnerable to, and sometimes provoke, counterrevolutions. Whether the counterrevolution is now underway is also a question for another time.
Speaking About the Unspeakable
Don’t talk about it. The more we talk about it, the more we make it seem normal. That is one view of the matter. The subject is torture. It is a subject that keeps cropping up in the news in connection with U.S. treatment of prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo. Then there is the practice of renditions in which the CIA apparently sends suspected terrorists to countries that are not so squeamish about the techniques of enhanced interrogation. They, it is reported, do the dirty work for us. Alan Dershowitz of Harvard Law School kicked off a new discussion of torture by advocating that it be brought under legal jurisdiction by requiring a bench warrant for torturing suspects in extraordinary circumstances. Dershowitz is not advocating torture. He simply notes that it is practiced in the great majority of countries of the world, and he is proposing a way by which he thinks the practice could be reduced by careful regulation.
Now Sanford Levinson who teaches law at the University of Texas has edited a book from Oxford University Press, Torture , with sixteen reflections on the subject. They range from the don’t-talk-about-it school to the talk-about-it-only-to-condemn-it view, to a variety of discussions of when torture is permissible and impermissible. The book includes an older essay by Princeton’s Michael Walzer advancing the inescapable connection between political action and dirty hands. The essay reflects an un-Jewish skepticism about the reach of morality and law; indeed it is almost Lutheran in its view of simul iustus et peccator , popularly translated into the maxim, Sin boldly. Among the more interesting contributions is one by Richard Posner of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and Senior Lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. Posner notes that torture lacks a clear definition in international agreements and American law. Almost all official interrogation is coercive, yet not all coercive interrogation would be called torture’ by any competent user of the English language, so that what is involved in using the word is picking out the point along a continuum at which the observer’s queasiness turns to revulsion.
There is also, one notes, a continuum of circumstances in which most people, rightly or wrongly, would make an exception to the general prohibition of torture. The most commonly cited exception is that of the ticking bomb in which there is reason to believe that a suspect knows the location of a nuclear weapon planted in a large city which, if it explodes, will kill thousands of people. In this book and elsewhere, almost all the parties to this discussion feel compelled to address the ticking bomb circumstance. Posner says he agrees with Dershowitz that if the stakes are high enough, torture is permissible. He adds, No one who doubts that should be in a position of responsibility. He suggests that Dershowitz is naïve, however, in thinking that the involvement of judges and warrants would not quickly become corrupted, resulting in the routinizing of an odious practice.
A Law of Necessity
Posner draws a comparison with Lincoln’s unconstitutional suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War. Lincoln did it anyway and was probably right to do so”the Union was in desperate straits, and its survival was more important than complying with every provision of the Constitution, since, had the rebellion succeeded, the Constitution would have gone by the boards. It does not follow that the Constitution should be amended to authorize the president to suspend habeas corpus; for he might be inclined to test the scope of that authority. It is important, says Posner, that Lincoln knew that what he was doing was illegal. The comparison is weakened, however, because Lincoln’s circumstance was sui generis, while the practice of torture is widespread and ongoing. In these discussions, reference is frequently made to Israeli laws aimed at prohibiting torture in the interrogation of terrorist suspects. The regulations distinguishing legitimate interrogation techniques from torture are quite precise, but allowance is made for ex post facto pardons in the use of torture when the appeal is to the law of necessity. We are again back to the ticking bomb scenario.
In all this, I am struck by the paucity of serious discussions by Christian moral theologians and ethicists. In these pages I have said, We dare not trust ourselves to torture. I believe that but acknowledge that it is not sufficient. How do we address these questions of what in fact is happening in circumstances in which conscientious Christians seek moral guidance, and how can we do this without falling into the pits of relativism, proportionalism, consequentialism, and related errors? In the ticking bomb instance, does the duty to protect thousands of innocents override the duty not to torture? There is a related development that has also not received the attention it would seem to deserve. It is a generally accepted moral maxim that it is always wrong to deliberately take innocent human life. Yet after September 11 it is the policy of our government to shoot down hijacked airplanes, thus killing the innocent passengers, if there is reason to believe that, as in the case of the World Trade Center, the hijackers intend to use the plane as a weapon. One can, of course, stretch the rule of double effect”the distinction between what is directly willed and what is only indirectly willed”but it is a stretch that teeters on the edge of simplistic intentionalism.
The instance of hijacked planes is relatively rare; the instance of torture is common, and, it would seem, becoming more common. Christian ethicists have in recent years moved away from quandary ethics to virtue ethics, and that is in many ways a good thing. But quandaries persist. Casuistry has a bad reputation, but the careful study of cases and the moral rules that apply to them is inevitably part of serious moral reflection. I, too, earnestly wish that we could not talk about torture. But the reality and the discussion of the reality will not go away. One cannot help but think that the discussion would benefit from the contributions of Christian and Jewish thinkers informed by the wisdom of biblical sources and their own traditions.
Helping Troubled Adolescents
In 2003 City Journal , the influential publication of the Manhattan Institute, ran a much-discussed article on the widespread promotion (promotion is the necessary word) of homosexuality in public schools (see Marjorie King, Queering the Schools, Spring 2003). Pro-gay advocacy is of course advanced in the name of inclusiveness and justice. That this problem is not limited to public schools is evident in Gay Adolescents in Catholic Schools, a long two-part article in Momentum , the official publication of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA), by Father Robert Mattingly, S.J., of Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C.
That some adolescents in Catholic schools experience homosexual desires and that this is frequently the occasion of confusion and pain cannot be denied. The confusion and pain are no doubt very real and deserve honest discussion among educators. Such students are entitled to caring attention by teachers and counselors. Fr. Mattingly’s analysis and recommendations, however, follow the line of gay advocacy organizations that have in recent years exercised such a great influence in our culture. Along the way, he seriously misrepresents the Church’s teaching on homosexuality. He writes: In 1986 the Church described homosexuality as intrinsically disordered’ (CDF, Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons ). Phrases such as this may not sound pleasing to the ear, but must be seen as precise philosophical terms. The term intrinsic’ confirms that this orientation is not chosen and that it is not changeable ( Catechism of the Catholic Church , p. 566). Wrong. In fact, the statement of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) says homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. The precise meaning of intrinsic is that the act is wrong in itself, quite apart from context, intention, or consequence. Nowhere in Catholic teaching”not in the CDF statement, nor in the Catechism , nor even in the much controverted and subsequently amended 1997 statement of the U.S. bishops, Always Our Children”is it taught that homosexual desires are unchangeable or represent, as Mattingly says, an inborn disposition. (The pertinent sections of the Catechism unfortunately misrepresented by Fr. Mattingly are §§ 2357“2359.) Nor, it should be added, are Fr. Mattingly’s claims warranted by scientific evidence.
Throughout his article, the author confuses homosexual desire with a gay identity that is to be publicly asserted and affirmed. His elaborate footnotes draw heavily and uncritically on gay-friendly research and advocacy literature. He stresses that gay adolescents need gay friends and suggests that, at least at first, such relationships not be sexual. This is not to say, he adds, that research holds that sexual relationships are always unhelpful, but if they occur they should come after the establishment of self-esteem-building friendships. This position, he asserts, does not contradict church teaching. Church teaching, by way of sharpest contrast, is this: Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection ( Catechism § 2359).
Mattingly acknowledges the perils encountered by gay adolescents and cites familiar findings: the suicide rate is five times higher for such adolescents; their suicide attempts are much more lethal; 40 percent of homeless teens are homosexual, many of them engaged in prostitution; homosexual teens are three times as likely to engage in alcohol and drug abuse, and account for 60 percent of new HIV cases among fifteen-to-twenty-four-year-olds. Why is the gay life so grim? Without a hint of nuance, Mattingly asserts the standard line: Self-destructive behaviors are not intrinsic to being homosexual but they flow from the external negative reaction to it, which then becomes internalized. In other words, whatever is wrong with homosexuality is the fault of those who think there is something wrong with homosexuality.
There is nothing original in Fr. Mattingly’s article. The arguments advanced and research cited are those to be found in the literature and on the websites of dozens of advocacy organizations. Except, of course, for the claim that the viewpoint is consistent with Catholic teaching, although that, too, is standard in gay-friendly Catholic advocacy. The noteworthy thing is that this position is promoted in the official journal of the NCEA. Adolescents caught up in the ambiguities of sexual desire need loving guidance and support”and clear moral teaching. It is an extreme act of cruelty to teach an adolescent boy or girl that one’s disordered desires define one’s identity, and thereby encourage young people to enter a grim gay world in the hope that, if enough do so, it will somehow abolish the external negative reaction to homosexuality.
This is a sure way to place children at risk in a sociological gamble that will almost certainly fail. To be sure, people have become more accepting, or at least less publicly censorious, of homosexuals and homosexuality in recent years. But it is true of almost all parents that they do not want their children to be gay, and they do not want teachers encouraging them to assume a gay identity. That will almost certainly not change, and for very good reasons, including their conviction that homosexual acts are morally wrong, the hope that their children will be spared the miseries attending a gay lifestyle, and their desire for grandchildren. The second part of Fr. Mattingly’s article offers practical suggestions for creating a gay-friendly school. They are, in effect, suggestions for doing an end run around parents, clergy, and counselors who may not have an appropriate attitude toward homosexuality. (The issue of Momentum in which the second part of the article appears carries, oddly enough, another long article on accountability in Catholic education.) The editors appear to recognize that the Mattingly article is provocative and they invite responses from readers. Provocations can play an important part in stimulating discussions. Mendacity, however, is not a legitimate form of provocation. Fr. Mattingly’s article, in its misrepresentation both of the homosexual condition and of the Church’s teaching, is a deeply misleading exercise in advocacy. Catholic educators, one would like to think, place a high premium on honesty.
The Church in World Politics
The Merton Lecture at Columbia University honors Thomas Merton, the monk-poet best remembered for The Seven Storey Mountain , the account of his discovery of Christ and the Church. This year the Merton Lecture was given by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, who is the Holy See’s representative, or nuncio, to the United Nations. His lecture is titled The Catholic Church and International Politics in the Twenty-First Century. Migliore noted that the Holy See currently has formally accredited diplomatic representation with 174 of the 191 member states of the UN, and underscored that such representation personifies the government of the pope. Therein lies an interesting little story.
When the UN was formed after World War II, a number of states had the status of permanent observer. One by one they became member states until only Switzerland and the Holy See were left. When Switzerland became a member state, there was fear in Rome that, as the only remaining permanent observer, the Holy See might be in a weakened position. Indeed, an unsuccessful effort was made, led by pro-abortion groups in the U.S., to terminate the Holy See’s representation at the U.N. In Rome, consideration was given to changing the relationship by having the tiny Vatican City become a member state. After widespread consultation, that idea was rejected, and last July the Holy See and the UN refined and ratified the now unique status as permanent observer.
This arrangement, the Archbishop noted, is in continuity with the beginnings of the Holy See’s diplomatic activity when, in the fourth century, the imperial government was moved to Constantinople and it was necessary for the pope to protect the interests of the Church by having a nuntius, or messenger, at the imperial court. So today the nuncios represent the Holy See, meaning the pope, and not Vatican City, which is, as Migliore says, simply a base from which to exercise his sovereignty over the Catholic Church, independent and autonomous of any earthly authority. The diplomatic activity has been growing. When John Paul II became pope in 1978, the Holy See was accredited to only eighty states. The purpose of such diplomacy is, of course, to represent the interests of the Catholic Church in various countries, but also, increasingly, to be an advocate for human rights”most particularly, for religious freedom for all believers, Rome being rightly convinced that religious freedom is the most important foundation of all human, civil, and political rights.
Although lacking economic or military power, Migliore notes, the Holy See is energetically engaged in helping to resolve problems among nations and working for international solidarity. He recalled Stalin’s scornful question, How many divisions does the Pope have? The answer was given decades later when, beginning with Poland, the moral authority of John Paul II was crucial to the dismantling of what Ronald Reagan called the evil empire. Today, Migliore said, stealing a phrase from George W. Bush, faith-based diplomacy is more and more important in a world in which religion and morality are increasingly assertive in politics among nations. He also describes this as track-two diplomacy, in which the Holy See seeks to guide the development of globalization and work against the resort to war.
Market economics and globalization are facts of life; the question is what this means for the peoples of the world, and especially the millions upon millions who are poor. Migliore said: In the early 1990s, the Pope affirmed in his encyclical Centesimus Annus that, after the fall of communism, it was not enough to say that the opposite system, capitalism, had won and had proven itself to be a better system. Instead, John Paul expressed the hope that capitalism could reform itself and urged that it be remodeled into a socio-economic market based on an ethical-political synthesis of human rights and duties. He proposed a new, universal social contract based on a strong ethic of solidarity . . . . The leitmotif of the Pope’s vision of globalization is that it needs to be governed.
As for war, the Holy See favors a presupposition in favor of nonviolent alternatives. Migliore elaborates: It is in this sense that the Pope is faithful to the inspiration that comes from the Word of God, from tradition, and from the Church’s social teaching, and stays above any dangerous ambiguity or pacificism-at-all-costs attitude. At the same time, however, Pope John Paul II insists that the world needs a new international order that lessens the need for war as a solution for disputes, with the final goal of making war useless and outmoded.
These ambitious goals are not without their conceptual and practical difficulties. Many scholars read Centesimus Annus in a way much more sympathetic to market economies than Archbishop Migliore suggests. The accent of the encyclical is on expanding the circle of productivity and exchange, not on establishing a social market, which is a phrase favored by democratic socialists in Europe and elsewhere. And one cannot help but wonder if it is helpful to say that globalization needs to be governed, if that means that market exchanges are to be governed by individual states or states acting collectively. A governed economy is at least in tension with the free economy so strongly affirmed by Centesimus Annus . If, on the other hand, the Archbishop means to say that economic decisions are very often also moral decisions, and that those making such decisions are morally responsible for their consequences, it is a quite different matter. That is a truth clearly grounded in Centesimus Annus and the entirety of the Church’s social doctrine. The World Trade Organization, for instance, in which the Holy See participates, may be seen as a form of economic governing, but it is governing aimed precisely at enhancing the freedom of the market economy.
Migliore affirms the final goal of making war useless and outmoded. That is an interesting formulation. In October 1965, Paul VI declared to the UN general assembly, No more war, war never again, and John Paul II has said that war is always a defeat for humanity. It is difficult to disagree with such sentiments, but some contend that Catholic social doctrine is moving toward a position of pacifism, if not, as Migliore says, pacifism-at-all-costs. Rome’s opposition to the Gulf War of 1991 and to the current action of the American-led coalition in Iraq is well known. The reasons for that opposition have been muddied by the anti-American tone of statements by some curial officials. It would seem that the Catholic Church cannot become pacifist of any sort without repudiating 1,500 years of doctrine regarding just and unjust warfare, and the rule of faith by which the Church is governed would seem to preclude the possibility of any such repudiation.
Just war, as carefully defined by the tradition, is understood as an instrument of statecraft. It is very hard to know what is meant by the final goal of making war useless and outmoded. It is not useless so long as states deem war, whether just or unjust, useful to achieving their ends. And it is not outmoded so long as it is the modality chosen to achieve such ends. In short, war will not be useless and outmoded until coercion, including military coercion, is no longer a factor in world politics. In 1991, Saddam Hussein deemed it useful to his purposes to seize Kuwait and assert his dominance in the Middle East. Other nations deemed it very useful, indeed imperative, to foil his ambitions. Likewise in the case of Hitler, Mussolini, Hirohito, Chairman Mao in Korea, the current regime in Sudan, and hundreds of lesser aggressors in the last half century. Certainly war is to be avoided if morally possible, and certainly the Church must strive to ameliorate the evil to which human beings are prone, and certainly the Church must proclaim the promise of the Peaceable Kingdom in which nations learn war no more. But to adopt, even as a goal, the proposition that war should be judged useless and outmoded is, in history short of that Kingdom, to reinforce a pacifist sentiment that weakens the resolve to resist evil and redress injustice, if necessary by resort to just war.
As to a new international order, Archbishop Migliore is a representative to the UN and so it may be assumed he has that institution very much in mind. In the Merton Lecture and elsewhere he speaks of the need for a reformed and restructured UN. At this time, and not only because of the Food-for-Oil scandal involving billions of dollars in smuggling and bribery, the UN is held in very low esteem, and not only in this country. Although here, for the first time in many years, influential voices are urging that the UN should be allowed to go the way of the League of Nations. It is generally admitted that the UN is corrupt and ineffectual. Even UN-sponsored studies do not attempt to deny that. In thinking about international order, it is not sufficient to speak in rather vague terms of human solidarity. Human solidarity is a moral truth to which the Church must bear witness. But international order suggests an institutional embodiment of that solidarity. If such an embodiment is to be consonant with the freedom that the Church teaches is essential to human dignity, it must not stifle the sometimes disorderly variety of cultural, political, and economic dynamics essential to human creativity. More specifically, Catholic teaching must address the continuing role of the nation-state and national sovereignty in securing human goods. One curial prelate, assuming the sovereignty of the UN over that of nation-states, repeatedly asserts, The force of law, not the law of force. That is a slogan, not an argument.
The ideas set forth in the Merton Lecture are deserving of close attention. Archbishop Migliore is a man of great intelligence and devotion, and is, not incidentally, a very affable interlocutor. The diplomatic corps of the Holy See renders important service in protecting the interests of the Church, coordinating humanitarian assistance, and advancing human rights, especially religious freedom, around the world. It is good that the permanent observer status of the Holy See at the UN has been clarified and secured. If, however, pronouncements on economics, globalization, war and peace, and international order are to rise to the dignity associated with doctrine, much more scholarly work and much more deliberation, along with much more time, will be required. Generalized dispositions, sentiments, intuitions, and even slogans in reaction to controverted current events do not constitute the mind of the Church, and are less than helpful to the many Catholics who devoutly desire sentire cum ecclesia ”to think with the Church.
While We’re At It
There are these advertisements in the Times Literary Supplement for T-shirts inscribed with the words of those described as the wise men. Albert Camus, for instance: All that I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football. Followed by Jean-Paul Sartre: In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team. I suppose, although at the moment I have neither time nor inclination to check it out, that the latter may be related to Hell is other people. Camus, by way of contrast, was, all in all, a wise man.
Follow your conscience. Too often that counsel is understood to mean that we’re free to do what we want to do. Conscience, however, is a gift of God for discerning the truth, and the truth is to be obeyed. This is among a host of questions concisely and winsomely addressed by Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, North Dakota, in a pastoral letter, You Will Know the Truth and the Truth Will Set You Free. The letter includes this: I urge the clergy, catechists, and laity of the Diocese of Fargo to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church to understand the true meaning of conscience. In order to facilitate this understanding, I am mandating today that every priest or deacon who preaches on the first two Sundays in Lent of 2005 is to present a catechetical homily on conscience. The section on conscience of the Catechism is to be distributed to every Catholic in the pew on the First Sunday of Lent. Homily outlines will be provided to the clergy to assist them in their preparation. One hopes that other bishops may pick up on this. It is not necessary to wait until next Lent.
Facing a barrage of pro-gay advocacy ranging in subtlety from the seductive to the sledgehammer, readers ask about books that critically engage the conventional views while offering alternative perspectives. Here are a few recommended by knowledgeable people. The Bible and Homosexual Practice (Abingdon) by Robert Gagnon of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is a thorough and widely respected study. Homosexuality and American Public Life , edited by Christopher Wolfe (Spence), addresses the cultural and political dimensions of gay advocacy. Homosexuality and the Politics of Truth by Jeffrey Satinover (Baker) is a psychiatrist’s incisive critique. The Truth About Homosexuality (Ignatius) is by John F. Harvey, the priest founder of Courage, an organization that helps people with same-sex attractions to live chastely. There is also A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (InterVarsity) by Joseph and Linda Nicolosi, a couple who have had extensive experience in working with children and parents. Straight and Narrow? (InterVarsity) by Thomas E. Schmidt reflects an informed evangelical Protestant perspective. Also of continuing pertinence, I should like to think, is the statement of the Ramsey Colloquium, The Homosexual Movement (FT March 1994).
When at the Second Vatican Council subsistit in replaced the former est , the Catholic Church made a decisive and irrevocable commitment to the quest for full communion among all Christians. This is a point underscored by Walter Cardinal Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, at a conference marking the fortieth anniversary of the Council’s decree on ecumenism ( Unitatis Redintegratio ). The Church of Jesus Christ subsists in the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is not simply, exclusively, and without remainder the Church of Jesus Christ. Already in the 1943 encyclical Mystici Corporis , it was recognized that there are those who are not baptized but yet belong to the Catholic Church by their desire to belong. This was commonly called baptism by desire. In the 1940s, Father Leonard Feeney of Boston precipitated a famous controversy by insisting that extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the Church no salvation) means that only Catholics could be saved. His interpretation of that venerable formulation was explicitly rejected by the Holy See in 1949, and Feeney’s persistence in his error later led to his excommunication. In his address, Kasper notes that with subsistit in there was a qualitative leap from recognizing individual Christians outside the boundaries of the Catholic Church to recognizing churches and ecclesial communities which, while not in full communion, belong rightfully to the one Church and are a means of salvation for their members. Subsistit in means that Christ’s Church has its concrete place in the Catholic Church . . . . It is here that she is to be concretely found. Full communion requires unity in faith, in sacraments, and in apostolic ministry. The schism between East and West, usually dated from 1054, is very different from the divisions in the Church of the West beginning in the sixteenth century. They are, says Kasper, different kinds of schisms. While the division between East and West has many political, cultural, and other sources, the crux of the problem is the issue of the Petrine ministry.In his great encyclical on Christian unity, Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One), John Paul II called for fraternal dialogue on how the Petrine ministry exercised by the Bishop of Rome might better serve the cause of unity. The divisions in the West, however, result from the Reformation efforts to establish another type of church. In various ways, they conceive of the church as a creatura verbi whose point of departure is the word of God and not the Eucharist. A Catholic and eucharistic ecclesiology, by contrast, holds together faith, sacraments, and apostolic ministry”the third being necessary to the second. The 2000 declaration Dominus Iesus , Kasper notes, provoked harsh criticism on the part of Protestant Christians. (Kasper, too, one notes in passing, criticized the declaration.) Dominus Iesus recognizes, Kasper says, that Protestants do not want to be church in the way the Catholic Church desires herself to be; they represent another kind of church and for this reason, according to the criterion of Catholic identity, they are not a church in the proper sense. Therefore the Protestant communities are not sister churches in the way that the Orthodox are. Catholicism and Orthodoxy claim to be Church in the same way. It is not a matter of Catholicism denying to Protestant communities an ecclesial dignity that they claim. They expressly do not claim or desire to be Church in the way that Catholicism and Orthodoxy do. The irrevocable commitment of the Catholic Church to ecumenism, says Kasper, is dialogical, pneumatological, and eschatological. That is to say, it is relentlessly open and engaged with other Christian communities, eager to receive the gifts they have cultivated. It is pneumatological in that it recognizes unity is the work of the Holy Spirit, which is not under our control. And it is eschatological in that it is radically dependent upon the promise that Our Lord’s prayer for unity among his disciples will be fulfilled. Kasper’s address concludes with the final words of the decree on ecumenism, And hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:5).
Since Paul Martin replaced Jean Chrétien as prime minister, anti-Americanism in Canada has been less petulantly vulgar, at least at the official level. Last fall President Bush visited Ottawa, the national capital, and, with a self-deprecating smile, expressed his appreciation of the crowds that greeted him waving all five fingers. The eighty percent of Canadians who live within eighty miles of the giant to the south understandably spend more time thinking about the giant than the giant does thinking about them. Uneasiness about the U.S. goes way back, as we are reminded by Claire Hoy’s new book, Canadians in the Civil War (McArthur & Company). On May 30, 1867, seven thousand of Toronto’s 45,000 residents turned out to cheer Jefferson Davis, former president of the Confederacy. Shortly before he assassinated Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth met with Confederate agents in Montreal. And in Chatham, Ontario, John Brown planned his 1859 attack on Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Hoy calls it one of the most famous”or infamous”excursions in American history. The reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement criticizes Hoy for giving the impression that the men Brown opposed have a point of view that should be given a hearing. Leading an armed insurrection, Brown seized not only the military arsenal but the entire town of men, women, and children. People who have been captured by a rebel force don’t have a point of view that should be given a hearing? But my point in mentioning the book is to indicate that Canadian uneasiness with us goes way back. Long before the Civil War, there was the War of Independence, plus 1814 and all that. While Canadian school children are today taught that their nation’s history began with Pierre Trudeau’s 1982 Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canadian memories, including a deep ambivalence toward the U.S., are much more deeply entrenched. Although the welcoming crowds were not huge, the five-fingered greeting may be viewed as progress.
The New York Sun reviews Father John O’Malley’s Four Cultures of the West (Belknap). There is, says O’Malley, the prophetic culture, the academic/intellectual culture, the humanistic culture, and the artistic culture. The book, while providing a suggestive take on Western history, is much given to the rhetoric of the academic study of rhetoric. The Sun reviewer writes, He claims that the eleventh-century Council of Trent, with its sloganeering and denunciations, belongs to the prophetic tradition, whereas Vatican II, with its metaphorical language and calls for dialogue, is humanistic. Ah yes, the reviewer’s discovery of the eleventh-century Council of Trent. It was so strident that many prefer to pretend that it never happened. As it happens, Fr. O’Malley and Avery Cardinal Dulles have gone back and forth in print on whether Vatican II is marked chiefly by continuity or by discontinuity. Dulles comes down on the side of continuity, and in my judgment has the better of the argument. O’Malley is right about the strikingly different rhetoric of Vatican II, but rhetoric, while it is never mere rhetoric, is still to be distinguished from substance. Saying that, I suppose, puts me squarely in the academic/intellectual culture rather than the humanistic culture preferred by O’Malley. At least I’m not in the sloganeering and denunciatory tradition of that awful First Council of Trent. The Second Council of Trent, in the sixteenth century, is, of course, an entirely different matter.
Medical doctors are, all in all, quite seriously religious. This is reflected in a nationwide survey of more than a thousand physicians by the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, directed by FT contributor Alan Mittleman. Seventy-four percent of doctors believe that miracles have occurred in the past and 73 percent believe they can occur today. Fifty-five percent say they have seen healings in their patients that defy medical explanation and that they consider miraculous. Fifty-nine percent say they pray for their patients. The report says physicians tend to be more religious than other professionals perhaps because of their frequent involvement with matters of life and death. That will often do it. Christian doctors are more open to miracles than Jewish doctors. It says here, Such differences do not indicate that Christ-ians are more religious than Jews. They do indicate that Christians tend to be religious in a more traditional way, while Jews are religious in a liberal way. I’m thinking about it.
Recall the grisly case in Missouri in which Lisa Montgomery killed by strangulation a woman who was eight months pregnant. The Associated Press reported: Authorities said Montgomery, 36, confessed to strangling Bobbie Joe Stinnett of Skidmore, Mo., on Thursday, cutting out the fetus and taking the baby back to Kansas. What happened to the fetus? And where did Montgomery get a baby? Encapsulated in one sentence are the absurdities of thought and language that bedevil liberal talk about abortion.
Stanley Fish is a very influential thinker who has been raising hackles, smashing icons, and opening windows for a long time, for years at Duke University and later as dean at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Now he writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education that the academy had better get ready for a radically new thing: the public and intellectual role of religion. Of course, he says, there have long been courses on religion in the university. But it is one thing to take religion as an object of study and another to take religion seriously. To take religion seriously would be to regard it not as a phenomenon to be analyzed at arm’s length, but as a candidate for the truth. In liberal theory, however, the category of truth has been reserved for hypotheses that take their chances in the marketplace of ideas.’ But now the notion of a neutral marketplace of ideas is being discredited. Fish writes: Again the causes of this shift are many and would require volumes to explain, but some things seem obvious. The enormous effort of John Rawls to maintain the boundaries by elevating for public purposes one’s identity as a citizen above one’s identity as a believer has produced a vast counterliterature of its own, much of it opening up questions that the liberal academic establishment had thought long settled. The debate was joined from another perspective in 1984 when Richard John Neuhaus published his enormously influential The Naked Public Square , a passionate argument against the exclusion from the political process of religious discourse. Not long afterward, Neuhaus established the journal First Things , a subsidiary of the Institute on Religion and Public Life whose purpose is to advance a religiously informed public philosophy for the ordering of society.’ Many of the contributors to First Things are high-profile academics situated in our most distinguished private and public universities, and it is clear from their commentaries that they see no bright line dividing their religious lives from the lives they pursue as teachers and scholars. Following in the wake of Rawls and Neuhaus, any number of theologians, philosophers, historians, and political theorists have reexamined, debated, challenged, and at times rejected the premises of liberalism, whether in the name of religion, or communitarianism, or multiculturalism. Intellectuals, writes Fish, need to brace themselves for a major adjustment. To the extent that liberalism’s structures have been undermined or at least shaken by these analyses, the perspicuousness and usefulness of distinctions long assumed”reason as opposed to faith, evidence as opposed to revelation, inquiry as opposed to obedience, truth as opposed to belief”have been called into question. And finally (and to return to where we began), the geopolitical events of the past decade and of the past three years especially have re-alerted us to the fact that hundreds of millions of people in the world do not observe the distinction between the private and the public or between belief and knowledge, and that it is no longer possible for us to regard such persons as quaintly premodern or as the needy recipients of our saving (an ironic word) wisdom. Is the academy ready for this very new circumstance? Fish answers: We had better be, because that is now where the action is. When Jacques Derrida died I was called by a reporter who wanted to know what would succeed high theory and the triumvirate of race, gender, and class as the center of intellectual energy in the academy. I answered like a shot: religion. Stanley Fish and I have had and, I assume, still do have serious differences about what counts as truth, and why (see FT February 1996). But I am grateful for his generous words, and I believe he is essentially (a non-ironic word) right about the changing academic climate with respect to religion.
The British papers, as one might expect, have weighed in on the Windsor Report which tried to resolve conflicts provoked by the installation of a gay bishop in the American franchise of Anglicanism. The Independent observes, By all accounts, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, holds enlightened views about the position of homosexuals within the Communion. Unfortunately, however, he has failed to project these views effectively. If Dr. Williams continues to value the unity of his church more than the principle of toleration, he will jeopardize his claim to be a voice of moral authority in modern Britain. Apparently he must choose between being a moral authority in his church or a moral authority in modern Britain, which gives no more than a fig about his church. More interestingly, he must choose between toleration or unity. It might seem that unity involves tolerating everybody, except that there are those who think that not everybody and everything should be tolerated, and they certainly should not be tolerated since they offend against the principle of tolerance which conflicts with the principle of unity, or something like that. Anglicans, and Brits in general, are famous for muddling through, but this may be a muddle too far.
Eyebrows of some Jewish leaders were raised by a finding that seemed to indicate declining Jewish support for Israel. In the 2004 annual American Jewish Committee survey, people were asked: Which one of the following qualities do you consider most important to your Jewish identity? Answers: Being part of the Jewish people (43 percent), Religious observance (14), Support for Israel (6), A commitment to social justice (20), Something else (16), Not sure (1). In the same survey, however, people are asked: Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Caring about Israel is a very important part of my being a Jew. Seventy-four percent agree and 25 percent disagree. Go figure. The survey, and the Jewish vote in the November election, reflect the continuing left-liberal predominance. Asked about anti-Semitism in America, 87 percent said it will remain the same or increase in the next several years. On the other hand, only 27 percent said anti-Semitism in America is a very serious problem, with 67 percent saying it is somewhat of a problem, and six percent believing it is not a problem at all.
The director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, takes a Goldwater-like stance on protecting America from religion. Extremism in the defense of the naked public square is no vice, etc. Writing in the New York Sun , Foxman complains about Justice Antonin Scalia’s address on religion and the Constitution at a Manhattan synagogue. He accuses Scalia of arguing that the Founding Fathers never used the phrase separation of church and state.’ Scalia may have observed that, or noted that, or pointed out that, but I am sure he did not argue that. One does not argue a simple fact. Although one may have to point it out very forcefully to someone like Mr. Foxman who, blithely indifferent to fact, asserts that the Founders constructed the constitutional wall between church and state. The Founders adopted a First Amendment containing a religion clause that, in the service of the free exercise of religion, forbids the establishment of a national religion. What that means, as Justice Scalia rightly argues, is a matter of continuing democratic deliberation. Fortunately, and despite the ADL, that deliberation continues and is likely to intensify in the years ahead.
Tyler Golson is an American in Damascus who teaches the children of the Syrian upper class. He is also a Democrat who supported John Kerry and was surprised to discover that his students were enthusiastically backing Bush. This despite the fact that the U.S. has placed sanctions on Syria and accused it of being part of the terror nexus. Bush is, the students said, a good man, a strong leader, and, most important, a good Christian. Golson reflects: And thus I came to realize something that the Democrats could never admit: that there exists a support base for both the Republicans’ domestic and foreign agenda among the very people we thought most opposed current U.S. policy. The cultural background and value systems which inform many of these young Arabs’ outlook on the world mean they will always favor men like Bush over men like Kerry. The tenets of faith, family, and, yes, moral issues’ determine the overall political leanings of a considerable number of the Middle East’s future leaders, in rejection of Democratic stump issues like increased liberalism, internationalism, and scientific progress. Though Democrats are often quick to criticize their opponents for seeing the issues in stark black and white, us and them’ terms, perhaps they ought to step back from their own obsession with red’ and blue’ dichotomies and recognize this nuance of Middle Eastern reality. Having a truly even-handed and practical approach to peace in the Arab world means realizing that not everyone, and certainly not all of the elites in Arab society, sympathize with the anti-American movements taking place within their own ranks, and that these heartland Arabs could prove a valuable ally in future U.S.-Arab relations.
After the November election, I speculated that some pro-abortionists will start thinking about modifying their pitch, perhaps by coming out in support of some limits on partial birth abortion. They could then present themselves as moderately pro-choiceor even, with some linguistic sleight of hand, moderately pro-life. Among the first out of the gate is Frances Kissling, founder and head of Catholics for a Free Choice (CFC), an organization that has received millions of dollars from Ford, Rockefeller, and other major foundations to counter the influence of the Catholic Church on the life questions. Kissling, who is sometimes referred to as Frances Quisling, has written a long article in Conscience , CFC’s magazine, Is There Life After