• There is, we are told, an “online diocese” of defrocked and disaffected priests called the “Catholic Diocese of One Spirit.” The members seem mostly to make their livings in “wedding ministries,” performing Catholic-style weddings without, like, you know, the actual Catholic part.
Their website notes, of the lead priest, that once, back in the 1960s, he wrote a letter to say that “priests had every right to be married and / or to be women,” for which he was “confined by his bishop to New Jersey.”
Such courage—and paid with such consequences. We’d say that he got what was coming to him, just for the crime of composing a sentence that bad. But, man, confining someone to New Jersey. Even Torquemada never did that.
• Our friend Russell Saltzman is a gifted writer (he spent a sabbatical here as an editor) as well as a pastor. He has published a set of letters he wrote for his parish newsletter, and they are, as you might expect, charming, pastoral, amusing, and convicting. And Lutheran. The Pastor’s Page can be ordered from the American Lutheran Publicity Bureau (alpb.org).
• In the aftermath of British Petroleum’s disastrous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, one particularly attentive patron of a BP filling station looked up from the pump to see a sign that shows the company is not without a sense of irony. The notice read, “Warning: Do not leave dispenser unattended. You are responsible for any spills.” Spill as we say, not as we do.
• A Gallup poll published in May reveals that, for the second year in a row, more Americans identify themselves as “pro-life” (47 percent) than “pro-choice” (45 percent). It’s not entirely clear what these results reveal about the American people; the difference in opinion is within the poll’s margin of error, and there has been no attendant increase in moral condemnation of abortion to explain the growing popularity of the pro-life label.
Nancy Cohen of the Los Angeles Times, however, believes she has the answer. The adjective pro-life, she laments, just sounds so much more appealing than pro-choice: “Who, after all, could be against life? Between life and choice, life should win every time. . . . ‘Pro-choice’ has turned into a tone-deaf rallying cry. . . . It essentially cedes the moral high ground to the antiabortion movement.”
The solution, Cohen suggests, is a change in nomenclature: The pro-choice movement should market itself as the pro-freedom movement—a euphemism for a euphemism now sullied by the reality it signals. And after pro-freedom, what? The infinity of language as the best hope for preserving the abortion license?
• The 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee drew a small group of protestors calling for spelling reform. English spelling, the spelling activists claim, is a stumbling block for many schoolchildren; it needs to be made more phonetic and more logical (moor fonetik and moor lajikel, that is). The sensible-spelling activists might consider recruiting as their spokesman young Shantanu Srivatsa, who went down in the eighth round of the Bee this year when he spelled ochidore—which means “shore crab”—as the entirely reasonable o-c-o-d-o-r.
• As a batting average, .180 ain’t very good. It’s also just about the way the Ninth Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals has been hitting recently. Occasional FIRST THINGS contributor Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain sits on the Ninth Circuit, and in May he put forward some startling statistics in an address to a Federal Bar Association luncheon in Portland, Oregon. It seems that 82 percent of the Ninth Circuit decisions reviewed by the Supreme Court were reversed in recent years.
Of course, for the most part, the Supreme Court hears cases that seem fishy to the justices, so the reversal rate is always high; as Judge O’Scannlain reports, the High Court reverses about 70 percent of the cases it reviews. Still, as Judge O’Scannlain points out, nearly 50 percent of Ninth Circuit decisions were unanimously reversed. That’s a shockingly high percentage of strikeouts, and without any foul tips.
What’s going on? Judge O’Scannlain doesn’t say it so undiplomatically, but his analysis is clear. The majority of judges on the Ninth Circuit simply will not accept the constitutional authority of the Supreme Court, for the simple fact that the Ninth Circuit judges disagree. There are, for example, various cases brought forward that concern the death penalty. Every year, the Ninth Circuit grants what’s known as habeas relief, which means that the prisoner’s death sentence is vacated because of a violation of proper legal procedure. And every year the Supreme Court says, “No, we’ve already told you that you’re using the wrong standard of review.”
It’s not just death-penalty cases. Other courts go through hitless streaks, of course. A post on the interesting law-professors’ blog The Volokh Conspiracy asked this spring “Is the Sixth Circuit the New Ninth (At Least in Habeas Cases)?” But even that way of expressing the question shows the Ninth Circuit’s reputation as the goofy circuit, the place where every progressive bending of the law gets a sympathetic hearing, often against the grain of settled constitutional principles consistently backed up by both the liberal and conservative justices on the Supreme Court.
A well-known magazine once gained a degree of notoriety for considering the possibility that our judges were usurping the democratic prerogatives of the American people. The Ninth Circuit seems to suggest a strange antinomianism: the judicial usurpation of the judiciary.
• Gary Anderson’s astute essays on biblical topics are familiar to FIRST THINGS readers. They will be pleased to know that the University of Notre Dame has elevated him to the rarified realm of a named chair in the theology department, the newly founded Hesburgh Chair of Catholic Theology.
As the old models of biblical study break down, Gary—along with his former colleague at Harvard, Jon Levenson—has been at the forefront of efforts to rethink the relations between the historical-critical project and the living realities of contemporary Christian and Jewish faith. It’s a good sign for the future of Catholic theology that a scholar so intellectually gifted—and committed to the theological future of the Catholic Church—has received such an honor.
• A sign of the spiritual stirring among American Jews is the number of new publications devoted to Jewish matters, including the website Tablet and now the Jewish Review of Books, whose maiden issue appeared in early March. The print format looks a bit like that of the New York Review of Books, although it is a quarterly rather than a biweekly. The new review’s publisher, Eric Cohen, is a member of the board of directors of the Institution for Religion and Public Life; an editorial board member, J.H.H. Weiler, gave this year’s Erasmus Lecture.
The Jewish Review of Books adopts as its motto Franz Rosenzweig’s twist on Terence (“nothing Jewish is alien to me”), citing his observation that “not everything Jewish was worthy of celebration, only that it was worthy of understanding.” The first issue correspondingly has an air of “Here comes everybody (Jewish).” From the Orthodox side, Shalom Carmy, the distinguished head of Bible Studies and Jewish Philosophy at Yeshiva University, offers a review of a book on bioethics by former FIRST THINGS editor Gilbert Meilander. A leading Bible scholar, Jon Levenson of Harvard, has a lucid critique of the perfervid idea of “Abrahamic religions.”
Secular and reform Jews are included as well. Hillel Halkin reviews Rabbi Lord Sacks’ edition of the Jewish prayer book. It is a uniquely Jewish study in contradiction: With what he describes as “my snobbery,” the very secular Halkin quibbles with details of Sacks’ translation that might diminish the pleasure of Hebrew prayer. In another article, J.H.H. Weiler denounces the recent decision by the British courts to overturn as “racist” the Orthodox Jewish criteria for Jewish identity as applied to the selection of pupils for Orthodox day schools.
All in all, an auspicious beginning.
• The Zenit news service reports: “A letter from August 1943 that Pope Pius XII wrote to U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt has been discovered and published by the Knights of Columbus. The previously unpublished letter, dated Aug. 30, 1943, asks the president to ‘spare innocent civil populations and in particular churches and religious institutions.’”
The Telegraph picks up the same story, which seems to originate with a Knights of Columbus press release. All of which moves our friend Dimitri Cavalli to outrage. The complete text of the pope’s letter, he notes, can be found in Myron Taylor’s book Wartime Correspondence Between President Roosevelt and Pope Pius XII (1947) and in volume 7 of Actes et Documents du Saint Siege Relatifs a la Seconde Guerre Mondiale (1974).
Dimitri suggests it’s not reasonable to call a letter “newly discovered” when it has appeared in the first collection of such documents, right after the war, and then in the definitive scholarly collection. But he’s being a little harsh, isn’t he? I mean, to those who don’t know a historical field, everything historical is a new discovery. It’s just that, when the field is Catholic history, one expects a little better of the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic news service Zenit.
• A robot wedding in Japan on May 16 created a small stir. Watching the video, which ran on several news channels and is available on YouTube, we at first thought the two getting married were the headline’s robots. As once was said of Al Gore, the couple looked amazingly lifelike. Turns out that, while the bride and groom were alive enough, they did partially block us from seeing I-Fairy, a four-foot-tall robot with flashing eyes and plastic pigtails.
As robots go, I-Fairy (manufactured by the Kokoro Company and bolted to a chair during the ceremony) didn’t really amount to much more than a remote-control device with a speaker. Wires from the robot snaked suspiciously off to a curtain, behind which sat an unidentified man clicking off commands from a computer console. No one paid any attention to him.
Remotely controlled weddings may be a tantalizing possibility for clergy. We guess that, if polled, 99.9 percent of all clergy will admit they prefer officiating at funerals to officiating at weddings, possibly because the chief participants at the former are less inclined to raise objections about how the service is to be conducted. Anything that puts a bit more distance between pastor and wedding party is likely to be applauded.
The robot-conducted wedding occasioned some complaints by conservative religious-press outlets that holy matrimony is “mocked . . . through trite innovation.” We agree, and there is more that can be said about that, especially if it involves skydiving, unity candles, or 15,000-BTU candelabra. Then there’s the worry that wedding-chapel Elvises in Las Vegas will lose their jobs through automation. Given the endless opportunities for crass tastelessness in staging a wedding, we regard that worry as remote.
• Remember Richard John Neuhaus’ 1971 book In Defense of People? On page 205, you can still find: “Curiously, few of the more ardent crusaders are demographers, and demographers do figure prominently among those who counter the contentions of the crusaders. Paul Erlich, for example, is a biologist, as is Garrett Hardin. John Holdren, Ehrlich associate and super-hawk on population control, is an expert on plasma research.”
Perhaps that name, John Holdren, sounds familiar. He’s now the czar of science for all these United States.
• On May 6, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi addressed the Washington Briefing for the Nation’s Catholic Community which was cosponsored by the National Catholic Reporter and Trinity Washington University. A video of Pelosi’s speech later surfaced on the Internet. She told the audience: “My favorite word is the Word, is the Word. And that is everything. It says it all for us. And you know the biblical reference, you know the Gospel reference of the Word. And that Word is, we have to give voice to what that means in terms of public policy that would be in keeping with the values of the Word. The Word. Isn’t it a beautiful word when you think of it?”
What Speaker Pelosi was trying to say (in her incoherent manner) is that she wants to shape public policy in accordance with the gospels. (Strangely, her position on abortion remains militantly secular instead of consistent with her Church’s teachings that affirm that unborn children are human beings and deserve legal protection.) We checked the websites for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, the American Civil Liberties Union, People for the American Way, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Atheists, and the Secular Coalition for America. None of these groups, which pride themselves on upholding the separation of church and state, expressed any concerns about Pelosi’s plan to create a “Word-based” public policy. If any Republican politician were to make the same statement (or a more coherent one), we have no doubt these groups (and the New York Times editorial board) would react with outrage. As always, anytime religion is able to promote liberal goals, questions about mixing religion and politics suddenly disappear.
• Pope Benedict XVI will visit Great Britain from September 16 to 19. William Donohue, the president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights, is worried. “There are many ominous signs surrounding the visit by Pope Benedict XVI to England in September,” Donohue says in a press release. “First, there are now over 100,000 Brits who have signed ‘certificates of de-baptism’ renouncing their former Christian status. Second, there are hate-ridden atheists like Richard Dawkins who are paying anti-Catholic lawyers to investigate the possibility of arresting the pope for ‘crimes against humanity.’ Third, Catholic bashing by the British media is flourishing.” Donohue also cites the case of Dale McAlpine, a Baptist street preacher, who was arrested in the town of Workington for stating that homosexuality is a sin. Donohue concludes, “There are times when dialogue is a mistake. This is one of them.”
We have a lot of respect for Bill Donohue and admire the work he’s done fighting anti-Catholicism, but he’s off base on this one.
First, if the Vatican were to cancel the visit, it would be seen widely as a public-relations victory for Britain’s militant atheists and rabid secularists and might even increase hostility toward the Catholic Church and religion across the nation. For decades to come, the atheists and secularists could brag about how they successfully intimidated the pope from visiting England. Second, popes have visited hostile areas before. In November 2006, just two months after the widespread uproar over his Regensburg speech, Pope Benedict visited Turkey. A best-selling novel in Turkey predicted the pope’s assassination. Pope John Paul II’s visit to the Netherlands in 1985 sparked angry demonstrations and even riots by those who opposed the Church’s teachings on sexual matters. John Paul II also faced hostile communist governments in Nicaragua in 1983 and his native Poland in 1979. The very first pope, St. Peter, visited Rome to spread the gospel and later was crucified. The Roman Empire brutally persecuted the Church for the next several centuries until the reign of Emperor Constantine I in the fourth century.
Great Britain has been described as a “post-Christian” nation. While Pope Benedict’s visit may not reverse or even slow Britain’s slide into the abyss of secularism, if the pope’s message inspires even a handful of people, his visit will be a success.
• The Reverend Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, made no secret of his displeasure with the Catholic bishops’ lobbying for a ban on abortion funding in President Barack Obama’s health-care bill. “What we saw . . . was an act of unparalleled arrogance on the part of church officials,” Lynn said in a press release. Lynn was also quoted by the National Journal as saying there was a “visceral sense that this [Catholic lobbying] went way over the line—even if as a technical matter, it didn’t violate the law.” If the bishops didn’t break any laws, then what is the basis for Lynn’s objection? Shouldn’t he know by now that you don’t have to be Catholic to oppose abortion? The Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League (godlessprolifers.org) says that you don’t even have to be religious to oppose abortion.
Strangely, Lynn didn’t have a problem with the Catholic bishops when they lobbied for immigration reform. Lynn is an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ, a very liberal mainline Protestant denomination. The United Church of Christ lobbied for abortion coverage in the health-care bill. Does Lynn (who has been accused of turning a blind eye to church–state violations that involve his church) believe that his church’s leaders “went way over the line” or tried to impose their religious beliefs on everyone else? Of course not. It’s always the other guy who crosses the line and seeks to impose religious doctrine.
Lynn wants the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to disclose how much it spends on lobbying activities. The bishops’ response should be, “You first!” Like the bishops’ conference, Americans United is registered with the Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Under IRS guidelines, such nonprofits may engage in some lobbying activity (defined as seeking to influence the passage or defeat of legislation), but such activity cannot be a “substantial” part of the organization’s overall activities. The Americans United website states that the group engages in lobbying. IRS guidelines for 501(c)(3) nonprofits make no distinction between religious and nonreligious ones. All are bound by the same guidelines. Americans United’s 2008 annual report (the latest one available on the website) doesn’t say how much the group spends on lobbying. If the Reverend Lynn wants religious organizations to disclose their lobbying expenses, let him take the lead and start by releasing his own group’s figures.
• Coptic Christians, who represent about 10 percent of Egypt’s population, have long objected to the discrimination, harassment, and even persecution they experience at the hands of the nation’s Muslim majority and the government. On January 7, gunmen murdered six Copts as they left Midnight Mass in the southern Egyptian town of Nagaa Hammadi. (Like the Orthodox Churches, Egypt’s Coptic Church celebrates Christmas on January 7.)
On May 29, Egypt’s Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the Coptic Church must grant divorces to two Coptic men and allow them to remarry in the Church. The Coptic Church generally does not allow divorce except in cases of adultery and other, rare circumstances. Justice Mohammed Husseini wrote, in the court’s opinion, that the “right to family formation is a constitutional right, which is above all other considerations.” The judge added that, under the law, “a Christian can remarry and the constitution guarantees his rights to have a [new] family.” Since the Supreme Administrative Court is Egypt’s highest court, its ruling cannot be appealed.
The Coptic Church immediately criticized the court for violating the Church’s religious rights. Pope Shenouda III, the Copts’ spiritual leader, and the Holy Synod of ninety-one Church bishops issued a statement, saying, “The Coptic Church respects the law, but does not accept rulings which are against the Bible and against its religious freedom which is guaranteed by the Constitution.” Pope Shenouda also said he would defrock any priest who allowed a divorced Christian to remarry, except under the Church’s existing guidelines. Although the pope and his bishops may face imprisonment if they continue to defy the court’s ruling, Shenouda explained that “the recent ruling is not acceptable to our conscience, and we cannot implement it.”
As for Justice Husseini, he wasn’t finished. About a week after ruling that the Coptic Church must violate its own teachings, he upheld a lower court’s decision that both Egyptian men who are married to Israeli women and the children of such marriages can have their Egyptian citizenship revoked.
• The abortion lobby’s ongoing war against crisis-pregnancy centers, which provide women with assistance so they can keep their babies, has come to Maryland. Lobbying by Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington and Maryland Pro-Choice America resulted in the Baltimore City Council and the Montgomery County Council (in southern Maryland) passing legislation that imposes new restrictions on crisis-pregnancy centers. The Baltimore law requires crisis-pregnancy centers to post signs that say they do not provide abortion services. The Montgomery County law requires crisis-pregnancy centers to post signs informing visitors that a licensed medical professional is not on staff and that the county health department advises seeking a licensed health-care provider. Thomas Schetelich, the chairman of the board of the Greater Baltimore Center for Pregnancy Concerns, told the Washington Times, “No other business is required to do this.” Schetelich, who is a lawyer, also pointed out that at his law office he is not required “to put on my wall what services I do not provide.”
The Archdiocese of Baltimore and the Centro Tepeyac Women’s Center, a crisis-pregnancy center operated by the Catholic Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, are now challenging the laws separately in federal court. “The government cannot create special speech rules just because people want to talk about pregnancy choices,” Mark Rienzi, lead counsel for Centro Tepeyac and a professor at Catholic University of America’s Columbus School of Law, told the Washington Times. “And it certainly cannot target pro-life speakers for special sign requirements and fines while leaving speech by abortion clinics entirely unregulated. This new regulation violates every core principle of free speech law.”
Pro-abortion groups have argued for decades that such regulations are needed to prevent crisis-pregnancy centers from “misleading women.” In fact, crisis-pregnancy centers take money away from abortion providers and their lobbyists by helping women keep their babies. What pro-abortion groups are really doing is trying to use the government’s power to force out competitors and intimidate political opponents.
• The Catholic News Agency reports that the Pontifical Council for Culture “has announced that it is creating a foundation to focus on relations with atheists and agnostics. The president of the Council announced the initiative . . . as a response to Pope Benedict’s call to ‘renew dialogue with men and women who don’t believe but want to move towards God.’” It’s good to know that Pope Benedict’s tireless ecumenical efforts now have been extended to those who espouse the faith of atheism.
• A recent study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine suggests that abstinence-only education can be effective in delaying sexual activity among sixth- and seventh-grade children. An abstinence-only program was, in fact, more successful than either “health promotion education” or safe sex–only education. The study involved children who attended an eight-hour intervention program emphasizing that abstinence can prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. No “moralistic arguments” were made, and it was not suggested to the children that they abstain from sex until marriage. The study found that the children were 33 percent more likely to abstain from sexual activity over a two-year period than children who attended interventions stressing the importance of safe sex or of maintaining good health generally.
While the study emphasized that the abstinence-only classes “would not be moralistic,” there was an underlying assumption in those classes that the children themselves were moral beings—a striking difference between the abstinence-only and safe sex–only interventions. In the abstinence-only program, it was emphasized that “abstinence can foster attainment of future goals.” In contrast, the safe sex–only intervention concentrated on education about sexually transmitted diseases and condom use—that is, it focused on the present only. The first program assumed that children look forward, anticipate, and hope. The second assumed that, like the lowest animals, they are aware only of the here and now. These results provide more evidence that children are, indeed, of the species Homo sapiens sapiens—creatures who are capable of checking natural desires and planning for the future and who are illuminated, to some degree, by the light of natural reason, by which they recognize the good and make choices accordingly.
• On August 26 the U.S. Postal Service plans to release a stamp honoring Mother Teresa. “Noted for her compassion toward the poor and suffering, Mother Teresa, a diminutive Roman Catholic nun and honorary U.S. citizen, served the sick and destitute of India and the world for nearly 50 years,” the official press release explains. “Her humility and compassion, as well as her respect for the innate worth and dignity of humankind, inspired people of all ages and backgrounds to work on behalf of the world’s poorest populations.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group based in Madison, Wisconsin, is crying foul. “Mother Teresa is principally known as a religious figure who ran a religious institution,” the group’s spokeswoman, Annie Laurie Gaylor, told Fox News. “You can’t really separate her being a nun and being a Roman Catholic from everything she did.”
What about the Postal Service’s earlier stamps honoring Fr. Edward Flanagan, the Catholic priest who founded Boys Town; Dr. Martin Luther King, a Baptist minister; and Malcolm X, a minister with the Nation of Islam who later converted to the Sunni branch of Islam? The atheist group objected to the Fr. Flanagan stamp but had no problems with the Martin Luther King and Malcolm X stamps.
Gaylor explained that Martin Luther King and Malcolm X are known primarily for their civil-rights activism. She claims that Dr. King “just happened to be a minister.” Was Dr. King’s civil-rights activism spurred by his religious faith, or by some secular ideology? Judging from his speeches (“I want to do God’s will”; “Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”), it would seem he was inspired to act by his Christian faith, just as Mother Teresa was inspired to act by hers. And Dr. King and Mother Teresa have something else in common: They both were honored with the Nobel Prize for Peace.
Regarding Malcolm X, Gaylor asserts that he “was not principally known for being a religious figure.” She also points out, “he’s not called ‘Father Malcolm X’ like Mother Teresa. I mean, even her name is a Roman Catholic honorific.” In fact, much the same could be said for Malcolm X. Gaylor may not realize that Malcolm X was not his given name. He was born Malcolm Little but changed his last name to X when he joined the Nation of Islam, a common practice among the group’s African-American converts. (Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan was born Louis Walcott and was once known as Louis X. Before boxer Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali, he changed it to Cassius X.) Thus, the name Malcolm X can be considered a Nation of Islam honorific. After he left the Nation of Islam and converted to Sunni Islam, he began to use the Muslim-sounding name, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz. And, clearly, Malcolm X’s religious beliefs, first as a member of the Nation of Islam and later as a Sunni Muslim, influenced his views and inspired his activism.
Despite the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s best efforts, both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X cannot be separated from their religious faiths. A more plausible explanation is that the atheist group did not object to the Martin Luther King and Malcolm X stamps because it did not want to be accused of racism.
Interestingly, in May the postal service issued a stamp honoring actress Katharine Hepburn. Hepburn, who won a record four Academy Awards for Best Actress, was an atheist. She made her atheism clear in any number of media interviews. If a religious organization were to object to the upcoming Hepburn stamp on the grounds that she was an avowed atheist, would we see charges of intolerance and religious discrimination from the likes of the American Civil Liberties Union, People for the American Way, the New York Times editorial board, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and, perhaps, even the Freedom From Religion Foundation?
• It’s amazing how bad arguments get recycled through history. Guess who said this:
It is true that they describe themselves as ministers of the gospel, but they claim to speak in the name of the Almighty on a political question pending in the Congress of the United States. It is an attempt to establish in this country the doctrine that a body of men, organized and known among the people as clergymen, have a peculiar right to determine the will of God in relation to legislative action. It is an attempt to establish a theocracy to take charge of our politics and our legislation. It is an attempt to make the legislative power of this country subordinate to the Church. It is not only to unite Church and State but it is to put the State in subordination to the dictates of the Church. Sir, you cannot find, in the most despotic countries, in the darkest ages, a bolder attempt on the part of the ministers of the gospel to usurp the power of government and to say to the people: “You must not think for yourselves; you must not dare to act for yourselves; you must, in all matters pertaining to the affairs of this life, as well as the next, receive instructions from us; and that, too, in the performance of your civil and official as well as your religious duties.
It wasn’t Mario Cuomo or the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair. The speaker is Democratic senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois. (Yes, that Stephen Douglas; the one who debated Abraham Lincoln in 1858.) According to David Christy’s 1863 book Pulpit Politics, Douglas made this statement on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1854. At the time, Congress was debating Douglas’ controversial Kansas–Nebraska Bill, which would allow the residents of the Kansas and Nebraska territories to decide for themselves whether to permit slavery. Douglas was reacting to a petition, signed by more than 3000 New England ministers, that called on Congress to defeat the bill. As we know, Congress passed the Kansas–Nebraska Act, and President Franklin Pierce signed it into law. The act further inflamed tensions between the North and South over slavery and set the stage for the Civil War.
In their decades-long efforts to discredit pro-lifers and religious conservatives, many liberal organizations and activists have employed arguments eerily similar to the one Stephen Douglas used to attack the Christian ministers who dared to trouble the conscience of Congress over slavery.
• On Sunday, June 6, Fr. Jerzy Popieuszko was beatified in Warsaw, Poland. During the period from December 13, 1981 to July 22, 1983, when Poland was under martial law, Fr. Popieuszko endeared himself to the suffering Polish people with his support for the workers of Solidarity and the outspoken, anti-Communist sermons in which he championed human rights and religious freedom. His motto was “Overcome Evil With Good.” His Masses attracted tens of thousands of people from around the country, and he made himself an enemy to the Polish communist government. On October 19, 1984, he disappeared. His battered body was found in a reservoir near Wocawek on October 30. Three members of the Polish secret police had abducted him, beaten him, tied him up, and thrown him into the water. He was thirty-seven.
Fr. Popieuszko’s murder sparked international outrage. According to Solidarity leader Lech Waesa: “The worst has happened. Someone wanted to kill and he killed not only a man, not a Pole, not only a priest. Someone wanted to kill the hope that it is possible to avoid violence in Polish political life.”
The murdered priest’s funeral attracted hundreds of thousands of people. Instead of frightening the Church and Solidarity into silence, Fr. Popieuszko’s martyrdom strengthened them and reinforced the Polish people’s resistance to Communist rule. Five years after Fr. Popieuszko’s death, the Polish government agreed to free elections, and the Berlin Wall fell. In 1990 Lech Waensa was elected president of Poland.
Archbishop Angelo Amato, the prefect for the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, presided over Fr. Popieuszko’s beatification with a Mass in Warsaw that drew over 100,000 people, including the slain priest’s one-hundred-year-old mother, Marianna. In his homily, Archbishop Amato said that “the tragic death of our martyr was the beginning of a general conversion of hearts to the Gospel.” Since 1984 an estimated eighteen million people, including religious and world leaders, have visited Fr. Popieusko’s grave.
Also on June 6, during his visit to Cyprus, Pope Bendict XVI took note of Fr. Popieuszko’s beatification. “His zealous service and his martyrdom are a special sign of the victory of good over evil,” the pope said. “May his example and his intercession nourish the zeal of priests and enkindle the faithful with love.”
WHILE WE’RE AT IT SOURCES: Dubious diocese, onespiritcatholic.org. BP sign, dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com, June 7, 2010. Abortion poll, gallup.com, May 14, 2010; Los Angeles Times, May 29, 2010. Spelling bee, Washington Post, June 4, 2010; spellingbee.com. Ninth Circuit: Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, Address to the Oregon Chapter of the Federal Bar Association, May 20, 2010; Jonathan H. Adler, The Volokh Conspiracy, June 1, 2010. Catholic history, Zenit, June 9, 2010; Telegraph, June 9, 2010. Robot wedding, wayoflife.org; Friday Church News Notes, May 21, 2010; YouTube.com. Nancy Pelosi, YouTube.com. William Donohue, catholicleague.org, press release, May 5, 2010. Barry Lynn, National Journal, November 23, 2009; blog.au.org, November 10, 2009. Coptic Christians, euronews.net, January 7, 2010; lifesitenews.com, June 1, 2010; Los Angeles Times, June 6 2010; aina.org, June 9, 2010; coptic.net. Crisis-pregnancy centers, medicalnewstoday.com, November 2, 2009; Montgomery County Gazette, December 2, 2009; Washington Times, May 24, 2010. Reaching out to atheists, Catholic News Agency, February 25, 2010. Abstinence education, Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, February 2010. Jerzy Popieuszko, news.bbc.co.uk, On This Day, October 30 ; zenit.org, June 6, 2010, and June 7, 2010; foxnews.com, June 6, 2010; ekai.pl, April 27, 2010.
WWAI TIPS: Stephen M. Barr, Dimitri Cavalli, Meghan Duke, David P. Goldman, Mary Ellen Kelly, David Mills, R.R. Reno, Russell E. Saltzman, Mary Rose Somarriba, Kevin Staley-Joyce, Thaddeus Whiting.