R.R. Reno is editor of First Things.
Nearly a century ago, Margaret Sanger promoted birth control as a way to put an end to poverty. That meant educating the poor in its methods. But she knew that this would be successful only to a certain degree. There’s a significant portion of society, made up of “irresponsible and reckless ones having little regard for the consequences of their acts, or whose religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers. Many of this group are diseased, feeble-minded, and are of the pauper element dependent upon the normal and fit members of society for their support. There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking people that the procreation of this group should be stopped.” Continue Reading »
It was a relief to read the measured, intelligent analysis of Judge Jeffrey Sutton. He wrote the majority opinion for a Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel. It determined that state laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman do not violate the U.S. Constitution. Continue Reading »
Yesterday I wrote about the likelihood that many Catholic institutions will capitulate to the spirit of our age, which has made gay rights into the Great Cause of justice. Alan Jacobs zeros in on an analogy I make to the Catholic Church’s 1933 Concordat with Germany negotiated by Eugenio Pacelli, then Vatican Secretary of State. (In my original article I called him Pius XII. It was not until 1939 that he was elected pope.) He finds the analogy unhelpful and suggests that I am blind to the imperatives of charity. Continue Reading »
Fr. Timothy Lannon, President of Creighton University, my former employer, has announced that starting in 2015 the school will provide benefits to legally married same-sex spouses. Most Jesuit universities already do so, as will Notre Dame, which recently announced its new policy that also will take effect in 2015. Continue Reading »
Yes means yes.” That’s the slogan promoting the new California guidelines regarding sexual assault on college and university campuses. The policy requires affirmative assent, and it’s designed to supplant less stringent school standards that define sexual assault as unwanted advances pressed in spite of a no. This effort to clarify the boundaries of the sex lives of college students is a response to the national outcry about date rape and the sexual vulnerability of women in the alcohol-soaked undergraduate culture. There’s a White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault. Its April report called for sexual-misconduct policies of the “yes means yes” sort as well as better enforcement. These are not mere exhortations. Responding to growing concern, the Education Department has invoked Title IX, the section of a 1972 education law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. This puts legal muscle behind the push to require revisions of sexual-misconduct policies in higher education.The stricter policies are needed because we’ve deregulated the intimate interactions of men and women. Our public culture no longer permits us to articulate moral limits on sexual relations, other than consent and a vague standard of decency. You can’t have sexual intercourse on the sidewalk, but in private you can do as you please as long as you don’t harm anyone, which in most instances means the consent of those involved. To say otherwise oppresses and stigmatizes people by suggesting that their sexual choices are wrong.That was the main rationale for the Supreme Court decision about anti-sodomy legislation in Lawrence v. Texas. As a result, it is now presumptively unconstitutional to pass laws regulating sexual encounters on grounds other than consent. Our public culture does not operate in the same formal manner as does the Court, but it too has deemed thick moral accounts of sex to be matters of private opinion that are not permitted to be expressed in public settings. A university administrator may be a pious Catholic or devout Mormon, but if he so much as hints at his moral views in front of a microphone, to say nothing of using them to shape school policy, he will be denounced by a wide array of campus activists and very likely will be removed from his position. Continue Reading »
Catesby Leigh’s analysis of the 9/11 complex in downtown Manhattan (“A Memorial to Forget”) explains how our impoverished cultural vocabulary for memorialization leads to a documentary mentality. We don’t know how to remember, and so we default to recording. In an essay in the New Yorker, Adam Gopnik draws a similar conclusion (though without Leigh’s critical clarity). He observes that a documentary emphasis makes sense for Holocaust museums. “Their subject is a great crime whose perpetrators did all within their power to keep concealed, and simply making the story public has been a big part of the work of mourning. Every found photograph of a Jewish child is a memory recovered from oblivion.” But September 11, 2001, had the opposite character. It “was a crime deliberately committed in open air as a nightmarish publicity stunt, one already as well documented as any incident in history. We can’t relearn it; we can only relive it.” Why, then, a museum? In part, its rationale is political. In the aftermath of 9/11, the victims’ families became a major political force, and the large museum with no clear purpose provided a flexible context for meeting their demands. It was also built because, as Leigh points out, we don’t know how to memorialize. So we make up for our impoverished aesthetic imaginations by spending large sums of money and heaping up buildings and programs and gestures. Like the giant torrents of falling water above, the vast museum below tries to dignify memory with grandiosity. Gopnik has a different explanation. By his reckoning, the “liberal imagination” doesn’t do memorials with the panache of “royal and revolutionary societies.” Perhaps, but that depends on which liberals are doing the imagining. Those who built the Shaw Memorial in Boston had a clear vision of the noble fight against slavery. But perhaps they weren’t liberals but instead radicals and revolutionaries, as the Southerners themselves called them. Continue Reading »
Two stories have been in circulation. One concerns a subpoena issued in Houston demanding all sermons and memoranda that touch on homosexuality from a group of pastors. The other involves Donald and Evelyn Knapp. Ordained ministers of the Four Square Church, they run the Hitching Post Wedding Chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Local officials have informed them that anti-discrimination laws require them to perform same-sex weddings.
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The Extraordinary Synod on the Family issued an interim “relatio” yesterday. This is a document meant to sum up the current state of discussion among the gathered bishops. George Weigel has written a definitive refutation of the media’s spin, which, predictably, interprets every sane (and commonplace) pastoral observation about the need for the Church to welcome sinners and accompany them in their efforts to seek sanctity as a sea change in Catholic teaching on sex and marriage. Continue Reading »
I first read Thérèse of Lisieux when on retreat half a dozen years ago. The effect on me was significant. I thought of it today, the memorial of St. Thérèse. Continue Reading »
I love the way the New York Times does parody. It’s so marvelously deadpan. Mark Bittman dishes up a particularly savory instance in the editorial pages: “Most of us can eat real and healthier food easily enough, and, as it happens, growing such food tends to be more sustainable. On a grand scale, we need societal changes and government support to make this more accessible to everyone. Butand this is the part I like bestmaking good food fair and affordable cannot be achieved without affecting the whole system. These are not just food questions; they are questions of justice and equality and rights, of enhancing rather than restricting democracy, of making a more rational, legitimate economy. In other words, working to make food fair and affordable is an opportunity for this country to live up to its founding principles.” There’s no parody in transhumanist Zoltan Istvan’s enthusiastic predictions about reproductive technology. “In vitro fertilization (IVF), genetic engineering, and cytoplasm donation are changing the way we mate and build families, and it’s doing it for the betterment of society. Though hard to believe, the reality is simple: It’s likely going to be safer and easier for a 70-year-old woman to have healthy offspring in two decades time than it is for a 25-year-old to have offspring today. In 20 years, many babies in America will be designer children, with genetic traits, sex, and emotional tendencies picked out ahead of time. Ectogenesis, raising a fetus in an artificial womb outside the body, will also likely be available. In fact, even men will be able to give birth to children via surgically implanted uteruses if they want. But even more far out, different sexes may not even be needed at all, based on advancing cloning technologies.” We can dispute the techno-confidence and the twenty-year timeline. But the basic thrust is accurate. We’re facing a future in which many people will be tempted to use reproductive technology to radically change “the way we mate and build families.” Our struggle against this supposed “betterment of society” will be of utmost importance. Continue Reading »