Around the turn of the first millennium, Danish pirates were successfully demanding protection money from the British. Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about it, and Walter Lacqueur, the distinguished foreign policy writer, was reminded of it when reviewing Bruce Bawer's new book, While Europe Slept (Doubleday). With particular attention to Scandinavia and the Netherlands, Bawer writes about the ways in which Europe is being taken hostage by Muslim immigrants. In Stockholm, Muslims are to be seen wearing T-shirts declaring: "2030--then we take over." I had quite forgotten the Kipling poem. Here it is:
It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say:--
"We invaded you last night--we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."
And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
And then you'll get rid of the Dane!
It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:--
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."
And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.
It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say:--
"We never pay any -one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that pays it is lost!"
Laqueur adds: "It may be premature to see Europe as lost. The British, after all, survived 200 years of paying Dane-geld. But the price will be high, as modern Danes are now finding out."
About some things you dare not joke, unless you're braced for outraged protests against your insensitivity. The other day in this space I mentioned Bishop Gene Robinson's letter explaining how he was in rehabilitation for alcoholism after he realized that his problem was not a failure of will or discipline but a disease. I suggested, in what I thought to be a wry manner, that he might apply the same logic to his same-sex compulsions that have wreaked such moral havoc with his life and created such turmoil for his church.
Sure enough, the protests poured in. To each and every one: Yes, I know alcoholism is not the same as same-sex compulsions. Yes, there is sound evidence of a physiological basis for the former, unlike the latter. And yes, the key to the success of Alcoholics Anonymous in many instances is the recognition that the problem is beyond the control of will and discipline. Please, I know all that.
The limited, and I think not unimportant point, was that Bishop Robinson should recognize that his same-sex indulgences are not under the control of a rightly ordered will and discipline, and he should therefore embrace chastity with the same determination that he is embracing abstinence from alcohol.
A reader who rather liked the comment sent the following letter he wrote, but I expect did not send, to Bishop Robinson. (Please stifle the impulse to protest again that homosexuality is not like alcoholism.)
Dear Bishop Robinson,
I was dismayed by your February 13 letter, in which you trotted out so many of the same old oenophobic clichés. A diversity-loving man such as yourself ought to know that the word "alcoholism" is nowadays tantamount to "hate speech" and I was saddened to see that you have fallen victim to believing the dubious proposition that oenophilia can (and should) be "cured."
Long ago, Chardonnay rights activists (dismissively called "bums" by "straight" society) reclaimed the language, and adopted far more empowering terms for the great gift God has given them. Only those who lack an integrated affective libational maturity will use such medieval terminology as "alcoholism" to describe this wonderful gift.
In that spirit, you should reject the self-hatred that would let you label yourself an "alcoholic" (connoting something clinical, perhaps even "objectively disordered"). Rather, you ought to accept yourself as a "lush" (connoting what is verdant and bountiful).
Moreover, it is a well-understood psychological principle that the most vocal oenophobes are themselves oenophiles in secret. So please "come out of the cellar," Bishop Robinson, and embrace your identity as a lush, the way God made you.
It is my sincere hope that you will take this letter to heart, renounce your oenophobia, and decide once again to embrace the LGBT (Liquor, Gin, Beer and Tequila) community.
Tom Roberts, editor of the National Catholic Reporter, has some snarky remarks about my supposedly inordinate influence in American Catholicism, in which he includes this: "Fr. Neuhaus was just as certain as a Lutheran cleric, when he was advising everyone what was best for all Lutherans as that community in the United States was evolving into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, as he is now certain what is best for all Catholics, since his conversion in 1990 and subsequent ordination to the priesthood in this denomination."
It is true that I was advising Lutherans that the fulfillment of the Lutheran Reformation was, as I described it, "the healing of the 16th century breach between Rome and the Reformation." I and the many other Lutherans who were making that argument lost, and the ELCA settled into being but one more permanently separated Protestant denomination. The perfectly consistent theological argument is obviously lost on Mr. Roberts, as is evident in his referring to the Catholic Church as "this denomination."
Implicit in his remarks is the frequently encountered assumption that "converts" have no business telling "cradle Catholics" how to be Catholic. I discuss this in some detail in my new book Catholic Matters. When I was received into the Church and ordained, Avery Cardinal Dulles--himself a former, if nominal, Presbyterian--told me that, no matter how long I lived, I would always be viewed as a "convert priest." He added that there are both plus and minus factors in that, and he was right.
Please do not misunderstand. I have been very well received in the Catholic Church, far beyond my deserving. Whatever hostility I have encountered comes almost exclusively from Catholics who have misspent their lives in trying to jettison those features of the Church--clarity of doctrine, apostolic authority, richness of sacramental piety, et al.--that make Catholicism so compelling to converts.
As I explain in Catholic Matters, one of the great untold stories of recent decades is the number of adults entering into full communion with the Catholic Church--about 200,000 per year in this country alone. Among them are distinguished theologians, mainly from Lutheranism and Anglicanism, such as Robert Louis Wilken of the University of Virginia, R.R. Reno of Creighton, Bruce Marshall of Southern Methodist, Douglas Farrow of McGill, Gary Anderson of Notre Dame, and Reinhard Hütter of Duke, to mention only a few.
It is possible that at no time in modern Catholic history since Newman and his friends entered the Church in the mid-19th century have so many distinguished thinkers from Protestant denominations become Catholic. You may be sure that none of them thought he was joining "this denomination." They understand themselves to have entered into communion with the Church of Jesus Christ most fully and rightly ordered through time. And they did so with eyes wide open to the problems that have prompted some cradle Catholics to try, fortunately in vain, to turn the Catholic Church into just another denomination.
In addition to which:
This coming Sunday, Father Neuhaus will be saying Mass and preaching at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church at 230 East 90th St. in New York (between 2nd and 3rd avenues). Copies of his new book, Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth will be available at a discount price of $20. Signed copies of the book will be available following the 11:15am Mass and Father Neuhaus will be signing copies following the 12:30 Mass.
Mary Ann Glendon, the Learned Hand Professor of Law at Harvard University, has this to say about the new book by Father Richard John Neuhaus:
"The author of The Catholic Moment has done it again. From its opening meditation on the death of the Pope that Neuhaus was one of the first to call 'the Great,' to the closing notes on the conclave that elected Benedict XVI, this beguiling book brings the reader into conversation on the current state of the Church with one of the great Catholic thinkers of our time. No one is better than Father Neuhaus at reminding us why, even in times of confusion and controversy, it's a joy to be Catholic!"
The book is Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth and is just out from Basic Books. It can be ordered from Amazon by clicking here.