“The Lion of Muenster,” Clemens August von Galen, was beatified at St. Peter’s on Sunday. Departing from the practice of John Paul the Great, Pope Benedict did not preside at the beatification ceremony but showed up at the end to hail the “heroic courage” of Cardinal von Galen in publicly protesting Hitler’s euthanasia programs and anti-Semitism. “Von Galen feared God more than man, and this gave him the courage to say and do things that many intelligent persons did not say or do in that period in Germany,” said the pope. “He dedicated himself,” Benedict contrinued, “to defending the rights of God, of the Church, and of man, rights which the National Socialist regime violated in a grave and systematic way in the name of an aberrant, neo-pagan ideology.”
Some critics of von Galen have complained that he was more concerned about the rights of God and the Church than about Hitler’s victims, notably the Jews. It is a strange charge that a bishop was chiefly devoted to God and the Church, and even a stranger notion that devotion to God and the Church does not entail, indeed mandate, devotion to all the imperiled children of God. The November issue of FIRST THINGS, which subscribers should be receiving in the next week, includes a timely and enlightening discussion of the heroism of Cardinal von Galen (a few weeks before his death in 1946, he was created a cardinal by Pius XII) and exposes the mean-spirited fatuity of his critics. The article is by Justus George Lawler.
Agitations over the nomination of Harriet Miers show no sign of subsiding. Michael Kinsley weighs in by mentioning “the darker conspiracy theory” that Republicans really don’t want Roe v Wade consigned to the legal dustbin, whether by a direct reversal or by adroitly bypassing it in future decisions. ” Roe v Wade has been very good to the Republican Party,” Kinsley writes, “keeping social and religious conservatives at a full boil of resentment. The last thing the party needs is to turn these motivated activists into satisfied customers, while stoking a fire under activists on the other side.” That theory has been knocking around for some time, and I would not be surprised if some Republicans do think that way. The British political philosopher Michael Oakeshott spoke of how a hotly contested public dispute reaches a point of “political equilibrium,” meaning that all sides arrive at a moment when they realize they are not going to get all they want and resign themselves to a tolerable accommodation. One can argue that that might happen “after Roe” when some states provide an absolute legal protection of the unborn, a few others maintain the unlimited abortion license, and most restrict legal abortion to cases of rape, incest, and direct threat to the life of the mother (the last being virtually non-existent).
Of course that is possible, but I think it unlikely. The convictions, passions, and vast organizational networks of pro-lifers committed to the goal of “every unborn child protected in law and welcomed in life” will not go away. Moreover new threats by rogue biotechnology — embryonic stem cell exploitation, cloning, fetal farming, the creation of a “transhuman” species — will create new outrages clamoring for political and legal remedy. These are among the issues that will be receiving sustained attention in FIRST THINGS in the months ahead. Make no mistake about it: Conspiratorial fantasies notwithstanding, the contest between the culture of life and the culture of death is a permanent and central feature of our public life. If Harriet Miers is confirmed, and if she is the conservative textualist that her supporters say she is, and if she helps the country move to the period “after Roe,” a new chapter will be opened in the greatest human rights struggle of our time.
I see that the Rev. Welton Gaddy, president of the liberal Interfaith Alliance, is protesting that all the talk about Ms. Miers’ religion is a violation of the constitutional provision against a “religious test” for public office. One may well be leery of the emphasis some her supporters put on her being “born again.” After all, there are a lot of born-again Christians who appear to be indifferent to the plight of children who are not permitted to be born the first time. But I rather doubt this is a constitutional issue. The ban on a religious test is designed to prohibit excluding a person from public office because of their religion. At the time, some states excluded Catholics, Jews, and atheists. As to why senators might confirm an appointment to public office, only God knows their motivations. Maybe because they like the person’s manner, or because they are friends, or because they are looking for a quid pro quo, or because they approve of their character. The last might well have something to do with the person’s religion. In arguing that the constitutional ban on a religious test applies to approving a person for public office, as well as disapproving a person for public office, the Interfaith Alliance is once again demonstrating its marginality to serious public discourse.