The current round of controversies has everything to do with the political shock of November 8, 1994, and alarums over the perceived ascendancy of the Religious Right. As a result, some Jews have ratcheted up to an almost painful degree their antennae for the detection of anti-Semitism. A few months ago, one of our local newspapers, the Times, went ballistic when the London Spectator ran a little article on the self-described dominance of Jews in Hollywood. The somewhat naive Spectator author thought he was doing nothing more than reporting an interesting circumstance and, as it turns out, was in large part relying on what Jewish writers had said about Jews and Hollywood. The young man did not understand that, according to the rules of the more extreme members of the anti-Semitism patrol, non-Jews are not supposed to notice when Jews publicly celebrate Jewish influence and success. As Ann Douglas has recently described in her acclaimed account of New York in the 1920s, Terrible Honesty (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), the central role of Jews in American popular entertainment goes back to the nineteenth century and, far from being a secret, has been frequently extolled in film and song. With weeks of letters and commentary in the Spectator, our British cousins had great fun with this little squall, chalking it up as yet another instance of American hypocrisy about our professed devotion to free speech.
After A Theory of Justice, it seemed that John Rawls was established as the oracle of political philosophy among English-speaking, or at least American, intellectuals. Remarkable in that light is the relatively cool reception given his 1993 book, Political Liberalism. Of course there is the fact that people enjoy taking down a few pegs those who have been elevated to such heights, but in the years between the two books there were significant changes in the American intellectual culture. The ahistorical and individualistic reasoning of A Theory of Justice no doubt played a part in provoking a rash of books that lifted up the importance of community, of “thick descriptions,” and of reasons of the heart alien to the reason of Rawls. Then too, while we do not embrace the notion that timing is everything, Political Liberalism came at a time when the irrepressible force of religion in public life and public discourse was making itself newly felt. Although A Theory had occasional intimations of something that might be called transcendent, Rawls’ project was self-consciously secular, and this became even more evident in Political Liberalism.
Michael McConnell of the University of Chicago and an FT contributor, makes this point in an article in the Michigan Law Review. He notes that there is a “surge of new writing about the role of religion in public life,” and reflects on how this might provide something like a “middle ground” in the abortion debate. McConnell has this to say about Rawls: “In the most serious entry in the field, John Rawls maintains that a society may justly base its laws only on a ‘reasonable’ political conception of justice, meaning a conception that is, or can be, ‘shared by citizens regarded as free and equal’ and that does not presuppose any particular ‘comprehensive doctrine,’ of which religious doctrine is a prime example. Applying this idea to the abortion issue, Rawls concludes (without much discussion) that ‘any comprehensive doctrine that leads to a balance of political values excluding’ the right to an abortion by a ‘mature adult’ woman in the first trimester ‘is to that extent unreasonable,’ because the ‘political value of the equality of women is overriding.’ This means, apparently, that the contrary balance-treating the life of the unborn as the ‘overriding value’-is not just wrong but beyond the boundaries of reasonable argument, in part because it rests on a ‘comprehensive doctrine’ (though why respect for unborn life rests on a comprehensive doctrine while respect for the equality of women does not is something of a mystery).”
McConnell is actually reviewing a new book by Elizabeth Mensch and Alan Freeman, The Politics of Virtue: Is Abortion Debatable? (Duke University Press). Mensch is a liberal Protestant and Freeman is Jewish, and their purpose is to explore whether in fact “comprehensive doctrines” offered by religion might not open the abortion controversy to the possibility of a sustainable accommodation. They survey different religious approaches, including natural law doctrine associated with Catholicism, and end up being most impressed with the Protestant thought of Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Of those two worthies McConnell says, “Their position might be described as ‘anti-choice,’ though not ‘pro-life.’“
He notes that that is his characterization, not that of Mensch and Freeman, but it is a remarkable characterization. Both Barth and Bonhoeffer left no doubt about the evil of abortion. In his Ethics, for example, Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor killed by Hitler in the last days of the war, wrote that abortion is “nothing but murder,” for a “nascent human being has been deliberately deprived of his life.” McConnell thinks it significant that Bonhoeffer adds, “A great many different motives may lead to an action of this kind; indeed in cases where it is an act of despair, performed in circumstances of extreme human or economic destitution and misery, the guilt may often lie rather with the community than with the individual.” That is significant, but it addresses only the culpability of the woman involved, not the wrongness of the act. In any event, McConnell seems to confuse theological and pastoral judgment with public policy prescription, almost as though Barth and Bonhoeffer were addressing the American abortion conflict in 1995. Were they part of the present debate, it seems very unlikely that they would not support the goal of the pro-life movement that every unborn child be protected in law and welcomed in life.
Returning to Mensch and Freeman, McConnell is skeptical of a Protestant proposal for a “compromise” that will end up with the law paying lip service to the sanctity of life while doing nothing about the practice of abortion. His words are sobering: “This is essentially the West European solution (coupled with some more serious protection for fetal life in the later stages of pregnancy than we have here), and it seems to satisfy most people. Let us abolish the ‘right’ of abortion discovered in Roe, declare that all life is deserving of protection, and then do nothing about it. Under this approach, the protesters, I predict, would diminish greatly in number; the Supreme Court’s docket would be cleared of these contentious cases; politicians would be off the hook; but the number of abortions would stay the same. If there is a principled middle-ground position, it must lie in a noncoercive pro-life policy that works.”
Reflecting on the subtitle of the book, Is Abortion Debatable?, McConnell ends with this: “By ‘debatable,’ the authors presumably mean that abortion is an issue about which debate is both possible and useful. I do not think that anyone will come away from this book persuaded of any particular thesis or program regarding abortion. I do think, though, that readers will be in a better position to see why even persons who share the authors’ liberal-left, feminist worldview should understand the abortion issue as a question of justice-not simply of privacy or oppression-and even those of a secular orientation will be able to see how theological voices can contribute to the debate. Perhaps the first step toward having a productive debate-and hence toward finding a peaceful democratic solution-is to listen to one another’s arguments and to stop attempting to rule ‘out-of-bounds’ those whose presuppositions are grounded in religious faith.”
John Rawls’ exclusion of “comprehensive doctrines,” notably religious doctrines, from public discourse is, in our judgment, a not very well disguised argument against democracy. Democratic discourse is more about people than doctrine; people locked in civil discourse can bring whatever doctrines they want to that discourse, although admittedly some doctrines will be more politically effective than others, and the intrusion of some doctrines could make the discourse a good deal less civil. In this connection, McConnell’s treatment of natural law is disappointing. McConnell, an evangelical Protestant, wonders whether natural law is religious at all, since it makes no appeal to revelation. “Perhaps God has nothing to do with it,” he writes. But, as he notes in the same essay, natural law is divine law as much as is the positive law revealed in Scripture. The natural law claim is that God has so created the world that there are moral truths accessible to human reason (even fallen human reason) that makes moral deliberation possible among those who do and those who do not recognize the revealed truths of salvation. God has everything to do with it. It is the way He made the world and us in it. In trying to discern and obey the moral truth, one is doing one’s religious duty. One does not need to be doing something identifiably religious in order to be religious. But that’s an argument for another day.
Brace yourself for a piece of good news. When, last year, Oregon legalized doctor-assisted suicide “jubilant activists and sober critics predicted that right-to-die laws would spread like wildfire. Four months later, Measure 16 appears to be more of a brushfire that could fizzle, at least this year.” That’s from Oregon’s largest newspaper, the Oregonian. This year, suicide bills have been introduced in at least eleven states; several have already been defeated, and none appears to be headed for passage. In addition, state and federal courts have been ruling against a constitutional right to die. Especially important is the Ninth Circuit Court that, in a decision written by John Noonan, overruled the May 1994 decision of Judge Barbara Rothstein in Compassion in Dying v. Washington State.
There have been complaints that media reports on the decision have made a point of noting that Noonan is a Catholic who has written extensively on the protection of life. We do not agree with the complaint. If reports on a decision to the opposite effect noted that the decision was written by a Methodist who has written extensively in favor of the right to die, that would seem to be fair enough. The unfairness lies in the fact that the media did, predictably, report Noonan’s religion and moral views, and almost certainly would not in the second instance. If a judge decides in favor of protecting life, he decides as a Catholic; if a judge decides in the opposite direction, he or she decides as a judge. So you are still expecting fairness in journalism? In fact, we would like to think that Noonan’s Catholic morality does have a bearing on the decision-not because of his position on the issue but because he understands that judges have a moral duty not to make up constitutional rights.
In any event, herewith excerpts from the majority opinion of the Ninth Circuit: “The conclusion of the district court that the statute deprived the plaintiffs of a liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment and denied them the equal protection of the laws cannot be sustained. . . . In the 205 years of our existence no constitutional right to aid in killing oneself has ever been asserted and upheld by a court of final jurisdiction. Unless the federal judiciary is to be a floating constitutional convention, a federal court should not invent a constitutional right unknown to the past and antithetical to the defense of human life that has been a chief responsibility of our constitutional government. . . . The district court declared the statute unconstitutional on its face without adequate consideration of Washington’s interests that, individually and convergently, outweigh any alleged liberty of suicide. . . . 1. The interest in not having physicians in the role of killers of their patients. . . . Not only would the self-understanding of physicians be affected by removal of the state’s support for their professional stance; the physician’s constant search for ways to combat disease would be affected, if killing were as acceptable an option for the physician as curing. . . . 2. The interest in not subjecting the elderly and even the not-elderly but infirm to psychological pressure to consent to their own deaths. . . . 3. The interest in protecting the poor and minorities from exploitation. . . . Pain is a significant factor in creating a desire for assisted suicide, and the poor and minorities are notoriously less provided for in the alleviation of pain. . . . The desire to reduce the cost of public assistance by quickly terminating a prolonged illness cannot be ignored. 4. The interest in protecting all of the handicapped from societal indifference and antipathy. . . . An insidious bias against the handicapped-again coupled with a cost-saving mentality-makes them especially in need of Washington’s statutory protection. . . . 5. An interest in preventing abuse similar to what has occurred in the Netherlands. . . . The physician’s medical expertness is not a license to inflict medical procedures against your will. . . . You can be left alone if you want. . . . Tort law and criminal law have never recognized a right to let others enslave you, mutilate you, or kill you. When you assert a claim that another-and especially another licensed by the state-should help you bring about your death, you ask for more than being let alone; you ask that the state, in protecting its own interest, not prevent its licensee from killing. The difference is not of degree but of kind. You no longer seek the end of unwanted medical attention. You seek the right to have a second person collaborate in your death.”
As welcome as the Ninth Circuit decision is, and as encouraged as we should be by the resistance to “right to die” measures in various states, complacency is entirely out of order. There are other legal ploys to be tried, and other courts more hospitable to the euthanasia cause. Euthanasia advocates were so buoyed by Oregon that in other states their bills dropped Oregon’s “safeguards” and came out for what they really want: e.g., doctors allowed to give lethal injections, a broadened definition of “terminal” illness, and terminations of patients who have not given their consent. Having overreached in several states, the Hemlock Society and its allies will perhaps be more cautious in the future. Certainly they still think the future is theirs, and maybe they are right. The most recent encyclical of John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, makes a convincing case that “the culture of death” is on the move. But for the moment there are also hopeful signs that, halfway down the abyss, some political and judicial fences are being repaired.
A very long time ago Albert Schweitzer was thought to have nailed down the coffin lid on “the quest for the historical Jesus.” Most scholars thought Paul Tillich had it right when he wrote: “Seen in the light of its basic intention, the attempt of historical criticism to find the empirical truth about Jesus of Nazareth was a failure. The historical Jesus, namely, the Jesus behind the symbols of his reception as the Christ, not only did not appear but receded farther and farther with every new step.” In the decade following World War II, however, there emerged a “new quest of the historical Jesus,” this time with the quite different purpose of grounding the Christian proclamation in the preaching and activity of Jesus, lest Christian faith drift off into some kind of ahistorical gnostic myth or mystery. That quest, too, was generally considered a failure, but none of this has prevented another batch of scholars, mainly American, from launching a “new new quest” or “third quest.” Writing about the earlier questings, Schweitzer said ninety years ago: “Each individual created Jesus in accordance with his own character. There is no historical task which so reveals a man’s true self as the writing of a life of Jesus.” As Schweitzer well understood, the traditional Christological dogmas of the Church had to be shattered before scholars could be free to proceed on the presuppositions that they bring to the task of discovering “the real Jesus.”
Carl Braaten, writing in the ecumenical journal Pro Ecclesia, invites us to cultivate a robust skepticism regarding this new new quest. “The answer to the question, ‘Which Jesus? Whose Jesus?’ cannot be given without coming clean on the matter of presuppositions. There were certain presuppositions at work in the formation of the Gospel traditions in the life of the early church. Easter and Pentecost were the crucial ones. We know what we know about Jesus only in the light of Easter and Pentecost. If we ignore them as functioning presuppositions in our scholarly approach to the historical Jesus, we will end up with a Jesus who looks very different from the picture of Jesus the Christ that we find in the New Testament and the Christian liturgy.
“The pictures of Jesus in the ‘Third Quest’ tell us more about their authors than they do about the ‘real’ Jesus of history. They are all very different; there is no consensus at all. For S. G. F. Brandon Jesus was a political revolutionary, for Hugh Schonfield a messianic schemer, for Morton Smith the founder of a secret society, for Geza Vermes a Galilean holy man, for Burton Mack a wandering Cynic preacher, for John Dominic Crosson a Mediterranean Jewish peasant, for Marcus Borg a countercultural charismatic trying to make the world a better place, for Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza a first-century feminist who called his disciples into an egalitarian community of equals, for Barbara Thiering a member of the Qumran community who married Mary Magdalene, had two sons and a daughter, divorced Mary, married someone else, and died in his sixties. For Bishop John Spong Jesus was born of a woman who had been raped, and all the stuff about Jesus’ resurrection in the Gospels is nothing but later Christian ‘midrash.’
“Usually I’m not so fond of the hermeneutics of suspicion, but here, with Schweitzer’s verdict ringing in my ears, I cannot help but apply it. These Jesus-scholars have found a reflection of their own values and ideals in Jesus, painting his picture in accordance with their own character, or lack of it. Meanwhile, many believing Christians will respond to the plethora of exotic concoctions and novelistic fantasies about the historical Jesus much like Mary Magdalene lamented to the two angels at the tomb: ‘They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him’ (John 20:13).”
It’s in the nature of conversations that they go back and forth, sometimes tediously and sometimes engagingly so. In the latter category is the discussion of whether a Christian understanding of the truth protects the rights of secular humanists better than a secular humanist understanding of the truth protects the rights of Christians. That was the claim made in this space some months ago, to which secular humanist William Sierichs, Jr. wrote an intelligently amusing rejoinder in the January 1995 issue. Sierichs, you may recall, turned the standard charges of Christian intolerance on their head, producing a tongue-in-cheek historical account of how secular humanists have persecuted Christians over the centuries. He ended with the plea, “Please don’t be paranoid. Our past does not predict our future.” Francis Brislawn of Laramie, Wyoming, was amused but not taken in. Along with his letter he sends us a copy of a letter he wrote to Free Inquiry, the magazine of the Council for Democratic/Secular Humanism, Dr. Paul Kurtz, bishop and founder. Mr. Brislawn wrote:
“In the Fall 1994 issue of Free Inquiry, on the Notes from the Editor page, the question is raised: What right do parents have to impose their own narrow and chauvinistic ideas on their offspring? (Referring to religious ideas.) Further down in this article a principle of the Secular Humanist Declaration is quoted: ‘We do not think it is moral to baptize infants, to confirm adolescents, or to impose a religious creed on young people before they are able to consent. Although children should learn about the history of religious/moral practices, these minds should not be indoctrinated in the faith before they are mature enough to evaluate the merits for themselves.’
“I don’t know, maybe immature minds should not be indoctrinated. But it seems here that humanists are trying to deny to others the freedom they claim for themselves-they themselves want to indoctrinate young minds. There seems to be a double standard. Is this freethought? (Using freethought in a descriptive sense and not in a technical sense.) Why do humanists have the right to impose a humanist creed on young people before they are able to consent?
“A couple of letters to the editor in that issue, one from Sidney Kash and another from John S. Dearing, provide further examples of this mindset. Sidney Kash describes how he would indoctrinate children: ‘If they do not get religious training, they should be provided with a basis in science and skepticism. . . . To introduce science, I suggest reading about biology (including the evolutionary progression of animals) and astronomy. Children ages three to five are not too young. Taking a lead from religion, it is important to expose children early to modern scientific views of the world around us. . . . ‘
“John Dearing states, ‘Children need to be protected from religion. . . . One way to teach our children is by reading and discussing humanist freethought books with them.’ This sounds like a Sunday School or Bible study for humanists.
“How can humanists claim the right to indoctrinate their children while denying that freedom to religionists? Is it because humanism, evolution, etc. are objectively true while religion is not? But religionists believe their ideas to be objectively true. Paul Kurtz asks: ‘What right do they have to impose their own narrow chauvinistic ideas on their offspring? Children are not the possessions of parents, but autonomous beings.’ Religionists will ask, ‘What right do atheists have to impose their own narrow and chauvinistic ideas on their offspring? The kids do not belong to them.’
“If parents shouldn’t impose their narrow ideas on their children, how do we prevent it? Thought police? It’s scary. Some parents will be allowed to pass their values on but others will not. This whole thing has the flavor of an in-house quarrel between competing faiths-religious faiths have always sought ways to prevent rival religions from teaching their ideas.”
After all the demonstrations and all the rallies, after the endless promotions of “safe sex” and the billions of dollars spent seeking a cure, a fatalistic attitude seems to have settled on the AIDS community, researchers and activists alike. The disease has become the leading killer of Americans between twenty-five and forty, according to Craig Horowitz in New York magazine, and half the homosexual men in New York City are HIV-positive. The virus-with its ability to mutate rapidly-has defeated all medical efforts to combat it.
Fatalism, however, as the ancient Roman Stoics discovered, is one of the most peculiar of possible moral attitudes to the universe, for it leads simultaneously toward two apparently opposed results: toward irresponsible activity and toward hopeless inactivity. Fatalism both sets one free and loads one down, because nothing that one does makes any difference. And both of these results have begun to surface in the worlds of homosexual activism.
“This change in attitude is clearly visible,” Horowitz observes. “The return of vintage seventies promiscuity has sparked a small boom in theaters, dance clubs, bars, and a variety of other venues that have back rooms and private cubicles for sex. . . . There is a new generation of men under twenty-five that simply hasn’t had enough experience with the disease to really be afraid of it. . . . ‘It’s made them very susceptible to the mythmaking side of AIDS,’ says Martin Delaney [a San Francisco AIDS activist]. ‘That HIV isn’t the cause of AIDS, that it’s all a government plot, the whole area that I call the conspiracy-theory side.’“
Meanwhile, the older leaders of ACT-UP, after their first successes in focusing attention upon AIDS, have gradually despaired of victory. “I know that no matter how many meetings I go to, we’re not going to walk out with a cure in my lifetime,” one tired activist admitted. “Everybody’s burned out,” added Delaney, “I am; we all are.”
The failure to find a medical cure has led to some of the homosexuals’ fatalism. “No viral disease in history has ever had so much money thrown at it,” the Nobel-laureate David Baltimore reported. The NIH alone spends $1.3 billion on AIDS research-though some critics, writes Horowitz, charge that the NIH is “an oversize, byzantine, bureaucratized black hole that sucks in federal dollars and delivers little in the way of results.” But researchers have managed to do considerable research, and their “early success followed by disappointment and heavily politicized disputes over strategy” has finally succeeded in destroying the older activists’ dream that they could get a cure simply by demanding one loudly and outrageously enough. “Though activists still argue that AIDS is being ignored and underfunded, that has become a harder case to make.”
The only available way to prevent the spread of AIDS, as even homosexuals admit, is by a change in behavior. But the change they have promoted, the “safe sex” ostensibly offered by the use of condoms, has proven ineffective. The physical and psychological awkwardness of condoms has lessened their use, and the increasingly fatalistic attitude of homosexuals has lead to a recent rise in reports of unprotected sex-and to a rise in the rates of HIV infection. Even the activists themselves contributed to the rise. “Whatever else you want to say about it,” ACT-UP founder Larry Kramer said, “ACT-UP was an incredible place to meet people. . . . It became the best cruising ground in New York. All the hot young men were there. Ask some of them how many guys they [had sex with] in the cloakroom. That’s a part of ACT-UP people don’t talk about.”
As we remarked some months ago, the all-stops-pulled gay and lesbian campaign of 1993-marches, protests, and cover stories in almost all the major magazines-came a cropper. It was the revolution that wasn’t. The disillusionment of yesterday’s activists is poignant but, considering what their victory might have meant, one’s sympathy is contained.
The title After MacIntyre takes off from Alasdair MacIntyre’s celebrated After Virtue. After MacIntyre, published by University of Notre Dame Press, has seventeen philosophers criticizing MacIntyre’s project from various viewpoints and with varying degrees of substantive disagreement. Then MacIntyre, as is the way with such books, offers an extended response to his critics. The whole thing is great fun, although most readers will undoubtedly think it an insiders’ quarrel among philosophers. In the course of his response, MacIntyre indicates the ways in which he has become much more of a Thomist over the years. He also gets off some sprightly observations about one of his favorite bugbears, the movement that today goes by the name “communitarianism.” “Contemporary communitarians, from whom I have strongly dissociated myself whenever I have had an opportunity to do so, advance their proposals as a contribution to the politics of the nation-state. Where liberals have characteristically insisted that government within a nation-state should remain neutral between rival conceptions of the human good, contemporary communitarians have urged that such government should give expression to some shared vision of the human good, a vision defining some type of community. Where liberals have characteristically urged that it is in the activities of subordinate voluntary associations, such as those constituted by religious groups, that shared visions of the good should be articulated, communitarians have insisted that the nation itself through the institutions of the nation-state ought to be constituted to some significant degree as a community. In the United States this has become a debate within the Democratic Party, a debate in which from my own point of view communitarians have attacked liberals on one issue on which liberals have been consistently in the right.”
Philosophical liberals are right in seeing the collectivist, even totalitarian, danger in the notion of the nation as a “strong community.” What they do not see is that the problem is with the modern nation-state. “Liberals, however, mistakenly suppose that those evils arise from any form of political community which embodies substantive practical agreement upon some strong conception of the human good. I by contrast take them to arise from the specific character of the modern nation-state, thus agreeing with liberals in this at least, that modern nation-states which masquerade as embodiments of community are always to be resisted. The modern nation-state, in whatever guise, is a dangerous and unmanageable institution, presenting itself on the one hand as a bureaucratic supplier of goods and services, which is always about to, but never actually does, give its clients value for money, and on the other as a repository of sacred values, which from time to time invites one to lay down one’s life on its behalf. As I have remarked elsewhere, it is like being asked to die for the telephone company. Sometimes of course there are evils only to be resisted by ad hoc participation in some particular enterprises of some nation-state: in resisting Hitler and Stalin, most notably. And it is prudent to pay one’s taxes and always just to accept obligations which one has incurred to the state and to its agencies. But to empower even the liberal state as a bearer of values always imperils those values. . . . In any case the liberal critique of those nation-states which pretend to embody the values of community has little to say to those Aristotelians, such as myself, for whom the nation-state is not and cannot be the locus of community.” So is Alasdair MacIntyre a liberal or conservative or what? Stay tuned. He says he is working on a big new book that may, or may not, answer questions such as that. In any event, After MacIntyre demonstrates that it is ridiculously premature to title a book After MacIntyre.
Oh, what a lovely fuss it has raised. United Methodist hierarchs harrumph at Abingdon’s publishing something so inappropriate, his colleagues in academic theology rail against its incorrectness, and the acolytes of Sophia claim that it is more than outrageous. They have gone so far as to call it conservative, which in some circles is about as far as you can go. The occasion of this ruckus is Thomas C. Oden’s new book, Requiem: A Lament in Three Movements (176 pages, $16.95
). Oden, a United Methodist teaching at Drew University, has more than three decades of experience with seminaries and divinity schools, and he offers good reason for being worried about what is going on. Herewith my foreword to the book, offered in the hope that it will whet the appetite of readers-and not only Methodist or Protestant readers-to accept an invitation to a requiem that, God willing, is prelude to resurrection.
• When an interpretation of the law binds, it is called legalism; when it loosens, it is called humane. At least that is the way Russell Hittinger of Catholic University sees the state of Catholic moral theology these days. Speaking to a conference of bishops in Dallas, he seized upon the parable of the wicked tenants who killed the agents of the landlord who came for his share of the harvest, and finally ended up trying to take over the vineyard. Hittinger concludes: “The message for moral theologians is that they must never pervert their craft by being lawyers for the tenants. When they act like lawyers for the tenants, they play the role of the scribes and Pharisees, who also wanted to call the shots by turning the law into their own interpretive tool. When the lord of the vineyard returned, the intellectual establishment wanted to wrangle over legal matters, and eventually found themselves doing something worse than that. The Pope is not going to turn the farm over to the tenants. The moral theologians insist that he must. Indeed, they threaten to take it anyway. If nothing else, they plan to outlast the Pope. And if this doesn’t work, they will throw salt on the field to make it useless to the owner. But we already know how this story must end.” Analogies should not be pushed too far. The Pope, as Hittinger notes, is not a landlord in the sense of owning the Church, nor are members of the Church, including moral theologians, mere tenants. But his analogy is striking insofar as it applies. • Race, meaning black-white relations, has bedevilled the American experience from the introduction of slavery. David Carlin, who is no stranger to our readers, writes in Commonweal, “This is America’s third failure at finding a satisfactory basis for black-white relations. Slavery wouldn’t do. Segregation wouldn’t do. And this-whatever we finally decide to call it-won t do either.” He then proceeds to offer about as lucid a description of the sundry madnesses in contemporary race relations as we have come across in a long while. “There are many causes for this latest failure, but one of the most important has been the assumption that there can be such a thing as a benign race consciousness. For 350 years prior to the 1960s, race consciousness-that is to say, white consciousness of another person’s African ancestry-had been powerful in America, almost always producing bad consequences. The sensible strategy would have been to erode race consciousness, to persuade white Americans that race did not really count. This was the strategy Martin Luther King, Jr. had in mind when he made his ‘content of their character’ remark. And the strategy worked. During the first half of the 1960s the nation went through a collective examination of conscience on the question of race and, in principle at least, came to the conclusion hoped for, namely, that race is a minor and relatively unimportant category. Victory had not been won, but it was at hand. But then defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, a combination of white liberals and black leaders (King now being dead) decided it was possible to have a benign race consciousness. As in the past, a person’s African ancestry was to be regarded as his or her principal defining characteristic; but now, instead of considering this a negative trait, white Americans would be expected to consider it a positive trait. The United States would continue to be divided on racial lines, but this division would no longer be a division into black and white castes, separate and unequal. Instead, we would be divided into black and white clans, clearly distinct from one another but equal and cooperative, both clans being peer members of the great American tribe. To promote this equality and cooperation, it would, of course, be necessary to introduce racial quotas into schools, jobs, legislative redistricting, etc. Given the long racist history of British America and the United States, the notion of a benign race consciousness should have been seen as a kind of contradiction in terms, nearly as preposterous as the notion of a benign anti-Semitism. But black leaders imagined it was possible to combine the incompatible ideals of integration and black nationalism, a synthesis of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Stokely Carmichael. White liberals (with the exception of some Jews for whom anything smelling of quotas was suspect) suspended their critical faculties out of a desire to remain in harmony with blacks. And almost everyone else shut up for fear of being called racists were they to turn critics. Two decades later the color line is still present in American society. To this day an African-American’s blackness remains his or her most salient trait in the eyes of most white Americans, as it does in the eyes of many black Americans. White racial bigotry, which once seemed to be well on its way to becoming an extinct species, is growing in strength. So is black racial bigotry. Worse than white bigotry, however, is white indifference: by and large, white Americans have lost interest in the troubles of their black fellow citizens. They have stopped listening, and they have largely stopped caring in any but a ritual manner. In the last thirty years, American life has been very disappointing in many ways, but no disappointment is more heartbreaking than the failure of racial integration. For in this case we had victory in the palm of our hands, victory over the most abiding social evil in American history-and we threw it away.” • Irving Louis Horowitz of Rutgers is a giant in several respects. Everybody worth their salt in sociology has had to engage Horowitz at some point, whether the subject is democratic theory, Third World development, religion and social custom, Max Weber on modernity, or at least three dozen other questions of consequence. In addition to his much writing and encouraging of others in academe, Horowitz is the founder and director of the book empire, Transaction Publishers. It seems improbable that Irving Louis is sixty-five years of age, but here is this festschrift in his honor, The Democratic Imagination, published by Transaction. It’s a big thick book in which a host of former students and others, mostly friendly critics, interact with the master. The following excerpt from his concluding reflections may help the reader to understand why so many of us salute this man with Ad multos annos!: “First and foremost, the life of democratic theory is that being wrong is not a crime against society or science. Nor therefore should such error be punished as such. Intellectuals as the first victims of the tyranny of absolutist regimes should be the last to champion linkages of personal punishment with scientific error. Theory is as much concerned with sensibility as structure, with feelings as much as form. How we respond to error, the civility of discourse itself, is critical to my approach. The battlefield of ideas is strewn with system builders. For individuals who are convinced that they have a special divination never before seen on the earth, only grandiose theorizing will suffice. To them, Whitehead had the answer: all philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato. For my part, I would add that all social theory is a series of footnotes to Aristotle. Second, the need to keep pace with changes in ordinary affairs requires that we start with facts and truths and end with ideas and beliefs. To reverse this process, to start with general theory, is but to insure fanaticism. The last temptation of the theorist is to fit reality into his or her model of social life. Once the researcher yields to that temptation, all is lost. Vanity replaces modesty, and the need of the scholar becomes the preservation of ‘face’ rather than the recognition of our fallibility and finitude. In this, we can learn much from the Western tradition in which we are as much defined by weakness as strength, or if the religious variant be preferred, sin as well as science.” • Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center recycles in the Los Angeles Times the old canard that Christian leaders such as Pius XII “at best looked the other way, protected their own, were bystanders rather than activists, and sometimes even assisted the Nazis in carrying out their Final Solution.” Charles Ford of St. Louis University wrote this letter to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (where the article also appeared): “Marvin Hier propagates a great falsehood about Pope Pius XII in his article ‘Remembering Victims of the Holocaust’ (Post-Dispatch, January 27, 1994). He claims that the Pope and his prelates ‘at best looked the other way’ while the Nazis destroyed the Jews. The truth is quite the opposite. The Pope hid hundreds of Jews in the Vatican and at Castel Gondolfo, the papal summer residence. A total of four thousand Jews were hidden in Rome. Rabbi Hier correctly points out that most of the Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe were in fact destroyed. But this was not true in Italy. Under the leadership of the Pope, his bishops and clergy, the Jews of Italy were sheltered so successfully that 85 percent survived. That is a higher percentage than in any other Nazi-occupied country except Denmark, which had a much smaller Jewish population. Let a single incident, involving the seminary in the town of Nonantola, serve to illustrate the heroic efforts of the Italian clergy. Near Nonantola was a villa harboring 92 Jewish orphans. When a local Fascist led the Nazis to the villa, the rector and his priests organized the escape of all 92 orphans, using the seminary as the main hiding place. Not one of the orphans was ever caught by the Nazis. Although the article leaves the impression that Bernard Lichtenberg, a priest who died en route to Dachau, was an isolated figure, more than 2,500 Catholic priests were imprisoned in Dachau. Of the one million Jews who survived in Nazi-occupied Europe, more than 85 percent were rescued by Roman Catholics. The Roman Catholic Church under Pope Pius XII did more than any other organization in Nazi-occupied Europe to defend the Jews against the Nazis.” At Ford’s parish, Bethel Lutheran Church in St. Louis, he and others are leading a series of adult education programs on the churches and the Third Reich, with particular attention to the martyred Lutheran pastor, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. • About as succinct and accessible a treatment of the subject as we’ve seen is “What You Need to Know About Euthanasia and the ‘Right to Die,’“ a thirty-one-page pamphlet by Mary Senander and available for $2 from Life Cycle Books, P.O. Box 420, Lewiston, NY 14092. Recommended for discussion groups. n In February we noted that the Postal Service had forbidden in its precincts any seasonal outbursts such as “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah.” Now the Rutherford Institute informs us that, partly through the institute’s intervention, the Postal Service has reversed itself. For instance, school children displaying cards in post offices can include religious themes, and citizens will not be censored as to how they might choose to greet one another. The only thing now forbidden is government displays of a religious nature. The sources of the original edict are still cause for concern, but the modest change in the right direction is welcome. • “We,” they declared, “grateful to Almighty God for the blessings of freedom, do earnestly desire to secure these blessings undiminished for our children.” That statement, from the Michigan State Board of Education, dates not from 1795-when words like these were common-but from 1995. Clark Durant, the new head of the school board, borrowed phrases from the preamble to the state’s constitution and from the Northwest Ordinance to compose a mission statement for education in Michigan that sounds like a dream of educational reform: asserting the primacy of parents, local accountability, and the need for religion, free access, and school choice. Occasional solecisms-the use of “impact” as a verb, the weak locution “we advocate for the removal of barriers that constrain efforts to open,” the improbable sentence “A blessing of freedom is to reaffirm an important truth”-remind us that the statement comes from our contemporaries. Our forefathers wrote better than that. But if the mission statement passed 7 to 1 by the Michigan Board of Education on January 19 is carried through, Michigan children will write better, too. • We don’t know why Pyramid Press of Dallas, Texas-”The Preferred Publisher for Progressive People,” as it alliteratively bills itself-would think this is their audience, but we received in the mail a copy of its latest tome, The Lambda Directory: Sources of Spiritual Support for Gay Men & Lesbians. “The search for spirituality among American adults,” the accompanying flyer ominously warns, “has not escaped the gay and lesbian community,” and the directory lists organizations waiting to welcome the practicing homosexual into any faith he or she progressively prefers: Christian, Jewish, New Age, Wicca/Goddess, or “alternative” pagan (don’t ask). It is intriguing to contemplate that, in some worlds, Wicca/Goddess is viewed as mainline religion. • It is not as though the leadership of oldline Protestantism isn’t trying. This from the Pacific School of Religion: “October 22, Pacific School of Religion’s Fall Lay Leadership Conference, ‘Revisioning the Church for the 21st Century,’ examines ways to breathe new life into the church in the face of the alarming membership decline in Protestant churches. Four workshops will be offered: ‘End of Life Decision-Making,’ by Ellen Agard, PSR adjunct faculty; ‘The Holiness of Money,’ by Kim Clark, PSR Director of Planned Giving; ‘Key Ideas of Other Faiths,’ by Riess Potterveld, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at PSR and former Cal State Professor of world religions; and ‘Partners in Preaching,’ by Mary Donovan Turner, Assistant Professor of Preaching at PSR.” End of life decision-making seems especially relevant to the circumstance in which the former Protestant establishment finds itself. • After exhaustive research and painstaking study, after six years spent scientifically gathering data and ten more years spent mathematically analyzing it, sociologist Scott J. South of the State University of New York at Albany has at last presented the public with his pathbreaking work. It turns out that the sexual availability of unmarried men and women in a neighborhood increases the chances of adultery and divorce, and that temptation increases the likelihood of transgression. Prof. South modestly limits his conclusions to non-Hispanic white people in their twenties. His evidence is so powerful, however, and his reasoning so cogent, that we feel confident that he will find similar results among other people at the end of his next sixteen years of study. Surely it is past time for religion to come to terms with the findings of modern social science, e.g., the now carefully documented connection between temptation and sin. • We had thought of a dozen amused things to say about reports of prisons that are banning cigarettes for inmates awaiting execution: healthy dying, smokeless frying, no coffin nails before the coffin, any other last request? etc. But as we receive more reports of the successful banning of cigarettes throughout prisons and mental hospitals, we find ourselves less amused with the self-righteous forces of right-thinking about health. As the kids say, get a life. Prisoners and the mentally disturbed, to say nothing of felons on death row, should not have their more important anxieties complicated by being deprived of a cigarette. Denying cigarettes to the condemned makes it obvious, if anyone had not noticed before, that the antismoking zealots are less interested in health than in punishing behavior of which they disapprove. • A full-page Planned Parenthood ad in the Times accused Cardinals Law of Boston, O’Connor of New York, and Mahony of Los Angeles, inter alia, of being “leaders of the anti-choice movement who have become the arms merchants in this war of words,” and suggested that they were responsible for murders at (as distinct from in) abortion clinics. So the U.S. bishops’ pro-life office countered with its full-page ad, which was run after some very considerable resistance from the Times. The ad was titled “Truth Doesn’t Kill. Abortion Does,” and it quoted pro-choice leaders who acknowledged the obvious, that abortion causes the death of a baby. The Times demanded that Gail Quinn of the bishops’ indemnification office produce an agreement stating that all of the people quoted in the ad had been contacted and had agreed to have their names used in the ad. Ms. Quinn asked if the Times had made a similar demand of Planned Parenthood. Of course they had not. Winona Johnson of the “ad acceptability department” claimed that each potential ad is judged “on its own merits” and not in relation to any past ads. “The biggest debate (with Ms. Quinn) was over the use of the word ‘abortionist,’“ she said. “We felt we didn’t want them to use that word.” Of course not. Among the strongest signs that the pro-choice side has lost the public argument is the insistence that we not call things (and people) by their right name. • Asked about the prospects for a reawakening among the dispirited mainline Protestants, a United Methodist observer said, “Most of the time, I don’t think we have a prayer, but then. . .” He left the sentence uncompleted. In fact, a prayer may be the most important thing they have. A recent issue commented on the remarkable new book of worship issued by the Presbyterian Church (USA). And now there is For All the Saints: A Prayer Book for and by the Church, issued by the independent American Lutheran Publicity Bureau. Edited by Pastor Frederick Schumacher, this is the first of four handsome volumes providing for every day of the year Scripture readings, psalms, prayers, and readings drawn from the entirety of Christian history. The same organization plans to produce soon a more comprehensive breviary along the lines of the Catholic Liturgy of the Hours. The first volume of For All the Saints costs $33 ppd. and is available from ALPB at P.O. Box 327, Delhi, NY 13753-0327. (The set of all four volumes is $100 ppd.) • Last summer New York City buses sported advertisements for the very “socially conscious” Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, with pictures of celebrities slurping their favorite flavors. And there was Father Daniel Berrigan, S.J., with, if we recall, something called Chocolate Chocha. As our younger readers likely do not know, Father Dan was in the 1960s one of the most celebrated religious figures in America, a poet in the prophetic mode dependably railing against many things that needed railing against, and many that didn’t. He was also a friend back then, although we have had slight occasion to meet in recent years. In any event, here is Father Dan back in his accustomed form. A journal called Cross Currents ran some articles in praise of the religio-moral sensitivity of President Clinton, which prompted Father Dan to write a letter to the editor. “I sorted through the ‘Religion in the White House’ trio of articles. My mood, starting with the fulsome italicized introduction signed by the Editors, was of shaken disbelief. ‘Extraordinary achievements’ of the Clinton White House? Allow me to repeat your list, and comment.-‘Universal health care.’ As a matter of ‘ecotheology’ (your word, not mine), can it be maintained that the restrictions on trade against Iraq or Cuba have contributed to the health of the children of Baghdad or Havana? Or has the word ‘universal’ been Bowdlerized in Orwellian fashion, meaning in effect, ours-and the devil take the hindmost?-‘. . . most energetic antipoverty effort in a generation’ (New York Times quote). And according to the same impeccable source, ‘the American share of the new arms deals in the third world soared to 73 percent in 1993 from 56 percent in 1992.’-Antipoverty effort? Energetic? Last month, the seventeenth Trident submarine was launched in Connecticut. Cost: $7 billion. One such monstrous behemoth, it is boasted in some quarters, can bring down the planet. Seventeen Tridents? Anti-poverty?-‘. . . a sense that there is such a thing as the common weal.’ How common? Whose weal? Again, ecotheology would incline one to take a look at campaign promises, since those roseate days, utterly forsworn. Would urge a look southward, where Haitian children and adults languish and are shipped back to die.-‘an administration whose focus is on the good of communities, from the family to the nation itself.’ Including among other goods and services the death penalty? I have a story to recount (from ‘Hospitality,’ 910 Ponce de Leon Avenue, NE, Atlanta). ‘As Governor of Arkansas and a candidate for President, Clinton flew home to witness the execution of lobotomized Ricky Rector. On the night of lethal injection, the prisoner left the pie from his last meal in the cell, intending “to eat it after the execution.”’ One inquires whether such a sorry episode was brought up in the course of that famous Religion in the White House amity.-‘. . . a vision of justice enlivened by ultimate concern.’ Excuse me, you lose me. The orotund phraseology is in the nature of a pulpit rehash, signifying, to me at least, nothing. What vision? How ultimate? And Amos no less? The incantational analogy would cause our biblical nay-sayers to blush from burnoose to sandals. I too live on Joan Campbell’s Broadway. I tried out the above empurpled prose on a homeless man on my street, assuring him that the White House was ‘enlivened by an etc., etc.’ He assured me he’d pass the word along to the fifty or so thousand like him in the city. He too thought we couldn’t have enough Tridents. Said that after all, the Haitian homeless weren’t so bad off in that snazzy Caribbean climate of theirs. ‘Politics of meaning’ indeed. I’m just wondering whether the eminences of the National Council of Churches, along with the bishops and rabbis, have not been rusticating too long, tents pitched outside the purview of Reagan-Bush, just dreaming of the day of the Big Summons. Too long a sacrifice, pace Yeats, can make the heart a big lump of longing. Power! Please bear with the minority opinion. We, biblically speaking, don’t belong inside there, bedazzled, listening to Clinton being brilliant without notes. We belong in the tents, telling the truth, a rare commodity rarely come by. Please, just take another close look at old Amos and the king’s priests. Amos knew where he belonged; they knew too. Where he belonged; not in our neighborhood. Old Amos. Jaweh never promised him the Rose Garden.” To that prophet-like blast, the editors of Cross Currents limply reply that “Society needs its prophets, Daniel Berrigan among them, just as, we think, it needs its politicians, Bill Clinton among them.” They don’t take back what they said about Clinton’s merits as a leader of great moral stature, but they do acknowledge that “Like the rest of us, he also sins, as, to take just one example, his hypocritical enthusiasm for the death penalty attests.” That’s likely not the example that most Americans would have cited first. For our part, we assume that the enthusiasms of both Father Berrigan and the editors of Cross Currents are utterly sincere. As for Old Amos, never mind the Rose Garden, he never even got to be a Ben and Jerry’s poster prophet. • When Judge Richard Kaufman overturned Michigan’s law against physician-aided suicide, he relied heavily on the reasoning of the 1927 Supreme Court decision Buck v. Bell-in which Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, allowing the compulsory sterilization of Carrie Buck, wrote the infamous words, “Three generations of imbeciles are enough.” An estimated sixty thousand people were involuntarily sterilized as a result of the decision. Not the least horror of the decision was that Carrie Buck, her mother, and her daughter were not by any means imbeciles. Justice Holmes was the first to suggest that they were, though only Justice Pierce Butler (the sole Roman Catholic on the court) dissented from his decision. The daughter of a prostitute, Carrie Buck became pregnant, possibly as a result of being raped by one of her inlaws. After her sterilization, she married, worked on her husband’s farm, tended the elderly, and sang in the church choir until her death in 1983. Her life, by all accounts, was a life of quality: simple, kind, and good. The “quality of life” arguments from Buck v. Bell asserted the government’s right to decide a person’s quality of life. Judge Kaufman’s use of those arguments to derive the individual’s right to suicide is a frightening reaffirmation of the governmental power not merely to allow, but to require, sterilization, abortion, and euthanasia. Once we invite people to draw up, as the Mikado did, their little lists of those who would not be missed, there is no doubt that many Carrie Bucks would be deprived of the burden of their putatively unworthy lives. • For some reason, Carl Braaten (see “Jesus Made to Order,” above) does not mention Fr. John P. Meier of Catholic University, and the author of the multivolume A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, in his commentary. Perhaps it is because Meier controls so stringently his presuppositions. Except for his presuppositions about the task of the historian qua historian, on which, as long-term readers know, there has been critical comment in these pages. Recently Fr. Meier delivered a lecture on “The Miracles of Jesus” at Santa Clara University in which, inter alia, he takes on the claim of Professor John Dominic Crossan and the notorious “Jesus Seminar” that Jesus was a “magician” in a mode common to the Mediterranean world of that time. In the course of his argument, Meier provides some helpful distinctions between miracle and magic, and contends that, by even the most rigorous historical criteria, there can be no reasonable doubt that Jesus “performed extraordinary deeds deemed by himself and others to be miracles.” Meier concludes: “The curious upshot of our overview is that, considered globally, the tradition of Jesus’ miracles is more firmly supported by the criteria of historicity than are a number of other well-known and often readily accepted traditions about Jesus’ life and ministry: e.g., his status as a carpenter or his use of ‘abba‘ in his own prayer to his heavenly Father. If I may put the point dramatically but with not too much exaggeration: if the miracle tradition from Jesus’ public ministry were to be rejected entirely as unhistorical, as a pure creation of the early Church, then so should every other Gospel tradition about Jesus, and we should conclude by confessing total ignorance about the historical Jesus. For, if the criteria of historicity do not work in the case of the miracle tradition, where multiple attestation is so massive and coherence so impressive, there is no reason to expect that these criteria would work any better elsewhere in the Gospel tradition. The quest for the historical Jesus would simply have to be abandoned. Needless to say, this is not the conclusion we have reached in this brief overview. . . . If scholars search for the historical Jesus and yet insist on downplaying or ignoring the massive miracle tradition in the Gospels, they condemn themselves to repeating the mistake of Thomas Jefferson. In his truncated edition of the Gospels, Jefferson cut out all the miracles of Jesus and thus created a bland moralist supposedly more relevant to the modern age. The trouble is, as Californians know all too well, nothing ages faster than relevance. The historical Jesus, a first-century Jew from Palestine, will always seem strange, alien, and even offensive to us. He is a person who will never be immediately relevant to our little agendas. And in that consists his abiding relevance.” • Beyond comment department: “The Jesus Seminar, a controversial group of New Testament scholars, has concluded there is no evidence that the Resurrection was a physical reality. More likely, they decided this week at a meeting in Santa Rosa, Calif., the historical Jesus ended with his death on the cross and the decay of his body. The scholars also agreed that there probably was no tomb and that Jesus’ body was likely disposed of by his crucifiers-not his followers. But they affirmed that the religious significance of the Resurrection goes beyond historical data. ‘We wanted to make an affirmative statement to all those who think we only care about tearing down Christian faith,’ said Robert W. Funk, a cofounder of the seminar and former president of the Society of Biblical Literature.” • These “social summits” run by the United Nations (Cairo in 1994, Copenhagen and Beijing this year) have become massive carnivals for the gathering of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). Prominent among them is Catholics for a Free Choice (CFC), run by Frances Kissling. The Holy See at the UN objected (unsuccessfully) to CFC being certified as an NGO at the Beijing conference. The objection immediately set off a flurry of protest in the media. The Vatican objection to CFC was compared with the objection of China to organizations that accuse that country of violating human rights. The two cases are quite different. On abortion and related life questions, CFC claims to represent the authentic Catholic position, which is manifestly false. More to the institutional point of UN rules for NGOs, CFC does not represent anyone but Frances Kissling. It is a letterhead organization that has no actual membership. The human rights organizations, on the other hand, have large memberships rightly concerned about China’s policies on religious, civil, and political liberties. Although representing nobody but herself, Ms. Kissling does represent herself very forcefully; she was much in the spotlight at Cairo and still commands the attention of uninformed or biased reporters in this country. It might be argued that Ms. Kissling also represents her financial backers. CFC raised $1.5 million in 1994, including a grant of $770,000 from the Ford Foundation. The declared and only mission of CFC is to attack the Catholic Church’s teaching on sexuality and the protection of human life. By any reasonable definition, CFC is an anti-Catholic organization. Those who think that anti-Catholic bigotry is a marginal leftover from the nineteenth century might want to work on a theory of marginality that includes the multibillion dollar Ford Foundation. (The Ford family pulled out of the foundation some years ago, protesting that it had betrayed its founding intention. In the promotion of bigotry, at least, it would seem that the foundation is keeping faith with the spirit of Henry Ford.) • Feel guilty about playing golf when you should be out saving souls? Horizons Unlimited of Huber Heights, Ohio, has come up with the solution-”Gos-Balls.” For $29.99, a dozen golf balls with imprinted Bible verses. It gives new meaning to sending forth the Word. As advertised in Christianity Today, whose editors, it would seem, are not on speaking terms with their advertising department. • Some metaphors should be kept on a short leash. In the Wall Street Journal, Robert Goldberg offers an admiring evaluation of Bill Moyers’ role as commentator on NBC nightly news, and concludes with this: “As Mr. Moyers puts it: ‘We need watchdogs, plenty of watchdogs-otherwise no one will bark when the news really bites.’“ The watchdogs tell us when to bark? The news bites the watchdogs? We’re working on it. • Brother Jeffrey Gros is associate ecumenical director of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and he notes in the current issue of Ecumenical Trends the happy turn in Southern Baptist-Catholic relations sparked by the declaration “Evangelicals and Catholics Together: The Christian Mission in the Third Millennium” (ECT). There was a move among Southern Baptists to censure Baptist executives who were instrumental in producing that declaration, but at the 1994 convention that move was decisively turned back. The convention resolved, rather, to “encourage the Interfaith Witness Department of the Home Mission Board to pursue ongoing Southern Baptist-Roman Catholic conversation while maintaining our Southern Baptist Confession without compromise.” Bro. Gros is cheered by “this very unlikely and challenging encounter” between Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics. He writes: “Given the congregational nature of the Southern Baptist churches, the local experiences of cooperation, dialogue, and common witness vary greatly across the country. This is now an international denomination, with churches in all of the fifty United States. Their role will continue to be important as a Christian partner to all of the churches. Their increased role in the National Association of Evangelicals can bring a wider and more theologically sensitive view to the member churches of that ecumenical body, as it can bring a breadth and tolerance to Southern Baptists. The configuration of the American ecumenical movement picture is always changing, and sensitivity to the interchurch agenda of the largest Protestant partner is an imperative for all who would pray Christ’s prayer for reconciliation among his people.” This vigorous engagement of Southern Baptists with other Christians is among the consequences that Charles Colson and I hoped for when we launched the project that produced “Evangelicals and Catholics Together.” While Bro. Gros is no doubt right about the progress this represents, it would be a mistake to underestimate the number of evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, who still have grave reservations about the declaration and the directions it points. These concerns will be addressed in detail in a new book that should be out any day now from Word. Titled Evangelicals & Catholics Together, it contains essays by Colson, Avery Dulles, Mark Noll, George Weigel, James Packer, and this writer. (As we go to press, it is learned that two SBC executives have “withdrawn” their signatures from ECT, while indicating that they still support the declaration. Stay tuned.) • “Westminster,” “John Knox.” The names resonate with the history of rigorous Calvinist orthodoxy. But that’s history. Now there’s Westminster/John Knox Press. Among its latest offerings is Feminist Theological Ethics: A Reader, edited by Lois K. Daly, who teaches at Siena College, a kind of Catholic school, in upstate New York. There’s the usual feminist twaddle in the promotional material, and then this: “It includes the contributions of more than twenty distinguished women scholars who cover a wide range of issues from an array of perspectives, including womanist, mujerista, and ecofeminist.” The contributors, as you might expect, are interested in “changing society’s assumptions about women as they challenge our culture’s traditions,” and so forth. But “mujerista”? Never heard of it, nor has a feminist theologian friend who is presumably up on these things. Having long since slaked the fires of neophilia-which is the driving force of achievement in the intellectual vacuums of the academy-we really don’t want to know. Given all the books demanding review attention, we’ve decided to pass on Feminist Theological Ethics. That reflects one of “our culture’s traditions” that Daly & Co. are no doubt eager to challenge: the editorial presumption of thinking that there must be good reason for believing a book may be serious enough to warrant notice. Yes, we know, we have already defeated our purpose by noticing it. But how else would these people know that we’re not paying attention?