“Venomous diatribe.” “Hateful xenophobia.” “Doing the work of Adolf Hitler.” “Agitating for a new crusade.” “Obviously mentally ill.” Such were among the sentiments expressed in response to my review in the October 1997 issue of Bat Ye’or’s important new book recently published in this country, The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press). In my comment I indicated the difficulties in establishing a respectful dialogue with contemporary Islam, but it really need not be this difficult.
To be fair, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) should not be taken to represent contemporary Islam. The attack initiated by CAIR produced dozens and dozens of letters from as far away as Australia, some of them accompanied by hundreds of signatures of Muslims who claimed to be deeply offended by the review. The campaign stopped short of issuing a fatwa against the editors, although there was a little nervous joking around here about who would get to open the mail. The campaign obviously had the aim of intimidating into silence anyone who dares to say anything less than complimentary about things Muslim. Just as obviously, such an effort is entirely counterproductive.
Many of the protesters made a point of saying that they were converts to Islam, usually from Christianity, and some had most uncomplimentary things to say about the religion they had left. The spokesman for CAIR stressed, in several telephone conversations, that he is an American-born convert and resents my “instructing” him on how we conduct civil conversation in this country. For all I know his family came over on the Mayflower, but the fact remains that issuing press releases and flooding the internet with condemnations of those with whom one disagrees is not the best way to nurture a constructive dialogue.
The first press release called on the Catholic Church to investigate, disown, and otherwise do something about this renegade priest who had written not nice things about Islam. Amazingly enough, the monsignor who is general secretary of the bishops conference responded to CAIR by distancing the conference from the review in FT and offering assurances of the bishops’ exquisite sensitivity and eagerness for dialogue. Quite predictably, CAIR seized upon his letter as the occasion for another press release trumpeting that the bishops of the United States had repudiated my review of Bat Ye’or, which no doubt came as a surprise to the bishops. As it happens, several bishops had indicated to me their appreciation of the review, and my own bishop, Cardinal O’Connor, was entirely supportive. Nonetheless, the letter from the conference secretary created a little flap in the Catholic press. It’s not every day that the office of the bishops conference issues a review of a book review or, however inadvertently, makes itself party to an attack on a priest who has editorially displeased a bullying interest group. Of course I am assured that that is not what was intended, but it is a curious little episode that should not be entirely forgotten.
As the Bat Ye’or book underscores, there are very important questions to be engaged in the complicated relationship between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and I will return to them in due course. Meanwhile, one hopes that everyone will learn from this incident a little something about what is not helpful. For instance, Imam Michael G. Kilpatrick, national president of the Islamic Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, announces his group’s support for the CAIR initiative: “We call upon people of the Catholic religion and people of conscience worldwide to condemn Mr. Neuhaus for his extremist attitude toward the religion of Islam and Muslims here in the United States.” Strong stuff, that. It is manifest that most of the protesters had not read the item in question, having simply reacted to the alert sent out on the internet (more than half the protests were e-mailed), and quite a few are confused about who wrote the offending article. Some demanded that “Mr. Neuhaus” editorially condemn the author and never let any such thing appear in FT again.
To be fair, there is not always confusion about statements issuing from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), but confusion is remarkably frequent. The latest instance is a pastoral letter approved by the administrative committee of the conference, Always Our Children: A Pastoral Message to Parents of Homosexual Children and Suggestions for Pastoral Ministries. It is in many ways a very thoughtful and clearly compassionate effort to help parents in a most difficult circumstance. But it has also generated intense controversy, and not without reason.
Father John Harvey is the heroic founder of “Courage,” a national organization of Catholics who are homosexual in orientation but are striving to live a chaste life in accord with the teaching of the Church. He has issued a statement sharply critical of Always Our Children, pointing out, inter alia, that it distorts the teaching of the Church, downplays the importance of therapeutic help for homosexuals, and offers dangerous advice. On the last score, he cites the document’s counsel to parents that they adopt a “wait and see” attitude if their child is experimenting with homosexuality. “Isolated acts do not make someone homosexual,” says Always Our Children.
Fr. Harvey writes: “This ‘wait and see’ attitude is very dangerous. If someone is attracted to drugs or to alcohol, we do not accept that attraction as a given, or indicate that it is beyond their power to reject. The truth is that we are dealing with an objective disorder within the person. The parent should do everything possible to help the youth to move away from this particular attraction, and from the surroundings which encourage him to act out. If pastors are going to advise parents concerning homosexuality, they should remind parents that their first obligation is to protect the child from immoral and dangerous behavior.”
Before the full meeting of bishops in November, and in response to the criticism by Fr. Harvey and others, Bishop Thomas J. O’Brien, chairman of the NCCB Committee on Marriage and Family that produced the statement, circulated a letter to the bishops defending Always Our Children. The letter says that the committee “respects Fr. Harvey’s work in pastoral ministry to homosexuals and consulted him during the course of writing [the document].” It appears that the committee did speak with Fr. Harvey for about twenty minutes two years ago. Who else the committee consulted is not a matter of public record, but reliable sources report that the process involved a number of parties closely associated with homosexual advocacy and critical of the Church’s teaching.
A very serious objection is that AOC twists the teaching of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in its treatment of sexuality as “a gift of God.” The Catechism says, “Everyone, man and woman, should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity. Physical, moral, and spiritual difference and complementarity are oriented toward the goods of marriage and the flourishing of family life” (2333). In AOC that passage is quoted with a crucial elision: “Everyone . . . should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.” Bishop O’Brien says this was not intended to urge an acceptance of homosexual orientation. The difficulty is, however, that the crippled quote from the Catechism appears in the context of discussing homosexuality. The quote is immediately followed by this: “Like all gifts from God, the power and freedom of sexuality can be channeled toward good or evil. Everyone—the homosexual and the heterosexual person—is called to personal maturity and responsibility.” It is very hard to imagine that an unbiased reader of AOC would not conclude that it is the Church’s teaching that the homosexual person “should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity.”
The very next lines in AOC propose what some might view as a novel understanding of chastity: “Chastity means integrating one’s thoughts, feelings, and actions, in the area of human sexuality, in a way that values and respects one’s own dignity and that of others.” By that measure, homogenitally active same-sex relationships that are, as it is said, meaningful and loving would appear also to be chaste. To be sure, the document does say that it adheres to Catholic moral doctrine. What some think is a problem is that it does not explain the connection between that claim and statements that would seem to be at variance with Catholic teaching, such as the new way of defining chastity.
As to the controversial “wait and see” passage, Bishop O’Brien writes: “References to early experimentation between a child and another of one’s own sex are primarily to psychological and emotional dependencies. They are not references to being sexually active.” This is intended to be reassuring, but it may also be exegetically puzzling to those who actually read the “wait and see” passage. It reads this way: “If your son or daughter is an adolescent, it is possible that he or she may be experimenting with some homosexual behaviors as part of the process of coming to terms with sexual identity. Isolated acts do not make someone homosexual.” With all respect to Bishop O’Brien, the words would seem to have reference to “being sexually active.”
News reports and commentaries on AOC, often approving, suggested that the Church was changing its position on homosexuality. The document is strongly supported by New Ways Ministry, an organization advocating such change. This from a memo widely circulated by its executive director, Francis DeBernardo: “The pastoral letter Always Our Children needs your help! This document is one of the strongest calls by Catholic leaders for inclusion and acceptance of lesbian and gay people in our Church. Yet, critics are voicing their opposition and calling for its revision and retraction.” The memo urges letters to the NCCB and individual bishops: “Tell him what the letter means to you: any personal story or reactions you or your loved ones had to the news of the letter. Write as who you are: a gay or lesbian person, a parent, a pastoral minister, a counselor, a youth worker, a chaplain—whatever your role is.”
It seems possible that bishops, too, like to be praised, and some, speaking in defense of AOC, have reported with pleasure that their mail has been nine to one in favor of the document. The word “gospel” does mean good news, which can too easily be confused with telling people what they want to hear. Especially people who are well organized, very vocal, and ever so progressive. It is fair to say that, in general, bishops do not receive all that many plaudits from the self-certified specialists in caring, compassion, and progressive thought. In addition, personal stories can be very affecting, and there is today prominent precedent for a nonjudgmental leadership style keyed to feeling the pain of others.
Nonetheless, one may be permitted to wonder whether such factors should have much bearing on the responsibility of bishops to articulate clearly the Church’s teaching and the pastoral tasks entailed by that teaching. There is beyond doubt much to approve in AOC. The appeal that parents should always love and never reject their children is movingly stated, even if relatively few parents need to be persuaded of that. It seems all too likely, however, that confusions in the document will mislead many parents and will discourage Catholics who struggle to be faithful to what they were taught, praying for the grace to resist temptation and overcome their homosexual desires. The alternative—an alternative that many call liberation—is to surrender to temptation and affirm one’s homosexual “identity.” New Ways Ministry is understandably enthusiastic about AOC. Equally understandable is the fervent hope of others that it will be revised or withdrawn.
Here’s an item that almost fell through the cracks, but is very much worth rescuing. Roger Kimball of the New Criterion discovers David Stove, and hopes that many others will as well. Stove, who has taught at the University of Sydney, Australia, most of his life, wrote Popper and After: Four Modern Irrationalists and a book on Darwinian theory that both admires and debunks Darwin. Stove’s approach is quite different from that of many who write on these subjects. Let Roger Kimball take it from here:
“Stove’s demolition of certain aspects of Darwinian theory, in Darwinian Fairytales and related essays, is equally thorough and convincing. Stove is unusual among anti-Darwinians. He is not a creationist; indeed, as he points out, he is ‘of no religion.’ Moreover, he admires Darwin greatly as a thinker, placing him at the top of his personal pantheon, along with Shakespeare, Purcell, Newton, and Hume. Finally, Stove believes that it is ‘overwhelmingly probable’ that our species evolved from some other and that ‘natural selection is probably the cause which is principally responsible for the coming into existence of new species from old ones.’ At the same time, Stove maintains that ‘Darwinism says many things, especially about our species, which are too obviously false to be believed by an educated person; or at least by an educated person who retains any capacity at all for critical thought.’ Some examples: that ‘every single organic being around us may be said to be striving to the utmost to increase its numbers’; that ‘of the many individuals of any species which are periodically born, but a small number can survive’; that it is to a mother’s ‘advantage’ that her child should be adopted by another woman; that ‘no one is prepared to sacrifice his life for any single person, but . . . everyone will sacrifice it for more than two brothers, or four half-brothers or eight first cousins’; that ‘any variation in the least degree injurious [to a species] would be rigidly destroyed.’
“These quotations are from Darwin and his orthodox disciples. A moment’s reflection shows that none is even remotely true, at least of human beings. Take the last named: that anything in the least injurious to a species would be ‘rigidly destroyed’ by natural selection. What about abortion, adoption, fondness for alcohol, and altruism, just to start with the A’s? As Stove notes, ‘each of these characteristics [tends] to shorten our lives, or to lessen the number of children we have, or both.’ Are any on the way to being rigidly destroyed? Again, if Darwin’s theory of evolution were true, ‘there would be in every species a constant and ruthless competition to survive: a competition in which only a few in any generation can be winners. But it is perfectly obvious that human life is not like that, however it may be with other species.’ Priests, hospitals, governments, old-age homes, charities, police: these are a few of the things whose existence contradicts Darwin’s theories.
“Stove shows in unremitting detail that, despite its enormous explanatory power regarding ‘cods, pines, flies,’ etc., Darwin’s theory of evolution is ‘a ridiculous slander on human beings.’ He is particularly good at exposing the ‘amazingly arrogant habit of Darwinians’ of ‘blaming the fact, instead of blaming their theory’ when they encounter contrary biological facts. Does it regularly happen that increasing prosperity leads to lower birth rates? And does this directly contradict Darwinian theory? No problem, just announce that the birth rates in such cases are somehow ‘inverted.’ Indeed, Stove’s analysis shows that, when it comes to our species, Darwinism ‘is a mere festering mass of errors.’ It can tell you ‘lots of truths about plants, flies, fish, etc., and interesting truths, too. . . . [But] if it is human life that you would most like to know about and to understand, then a good library can be begun by leaving out Darwinism, from 1859 [when On the Origin of Species was published] to the present hour.’ It is not a pretty picture that Stove paints; but then the exhibition of gross error widely accepted is never a comely sight.”
A Lutheran pastor writes me that he has been wrestling again with Dietrich Bonhoeffer, that most worthy theologian who was martyred during the last days of the Nazi horror. Pondering Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, he says, “I almost feel I am in the world of the Church fathers. The mix of the perennial and the contextual is striking. Reading through the umpteenth time, I am especially struck with Bonhoeffer’s bracing severity about ‘community’—a kind of ascesis of spiritual relationships.”
This pastor, like so many others these days, is heavily burdened by the question of where he belongs in the larger Christian community. “I’ve been thinking sobering thoughts about how the unraveling of Lutheranism may have been quite predictable, given the conceptual habit of relegating morals to a ‘second order’ somehow incidental to salvation. . . . Doctrinal agreement turns out to be sheer abstraction apart from a common vision about the concrete shape of the Life we are saved to live. It’s revealing that in ‘Evangelicals and Catholics Together’ you were able to begin with actual issues of Christian obedience.”
I had not thought of it quite like that, but of course he is right. To be sure, there is an important sense in which the 1997 statement, “The Gift of Salvation,” is more significant than the original ECT statement of 1994. “The Gift of Salvation” does not say everything that Catholics, and many Protestants, would want to say about salvation, but it does put clearly and unmistakably on the record that Catholics can say with full integrity what evangelical Protestants believe must be said about salvation.
At the same time, however, my Lutheran friend is right about the significance of the 1994 statement’s underscoring of how Christians are to live, how they understand their duties to one another and to the world of which they are part. In the very early Church, before Christianity was called Christianity it was called, quite simply, the Way. It was the communal way of living for those who followed the one who called himself the way, the truth, and the life. This is not to downplay the importance of doctrine. Doctrine or teaching is necessarily engaged in answering the question why one should follow Jesus the Christ. Who is he that I should acknowledge his claim on my life? The answers to this and other questions are inescapably doctrinal.
But a moment’s reflection on these things quickly runs into ironies. The old liberalism that claims it is “deeds not creeds” that matter has again and again demonstrated that it can speak clearly about neither deeds nor creeds. My Lutheran friend is pleased that Catholics and Lutherans can approve a common statement on justification by faith, but “doctrinal agreement turns out to be sheer abstraction apart from a concrete vision of the shape of the Life we are saved to live.” I am reminded again of the emphatic way in which the encyclical Veritatis Splendor argues that moral theology is theology. The Christian faith is a way of thinking and speaking together, but it is equally a way of living together, and living is much more than thinking and speaking. Creeds without deeds are abstractions, while the moral imperative of deeds loses all its force without creeds. What we are to do and how we are to be (deeds) cannot be sustained apart from an answer to the question why (creeds).
Perhaps there was, then, more than mere coincidence in ECT’s beginning with what my friend calls “actual issues of Christian obedience.” There is a sense in which we found ourselves in the Way before we addressed in detail the heart of the why. All of us involved in ECT have repeatedly spoken of our strong sense of the Spirit’s guidance in this initiative. The French have a saying: “Coincidence is an event in which God wishes to remain anonymous.”
“Scratch an American Jew,” writes Earl Raab, one of the most respected analysts of American Jewish life, “and you find a democratic voter, but, if you scratch deeper, you will not find a liberal.” That is quoted in an article by Murray Friedman of the American Jewish Committee in Moment magazine. Friedman thinks a major change may be under way, citing the large number of younger Jewish intellectuals and writers who identify themselves as conservative. Some of those he cites are closely associated with this journal. “There are indications that younger Jews are voting differently from their parents and especially from their grandparents. It’s a ‘generation that knows not FDR or JFK; it is three generations removed from the ferment of the Jewish labor union movement. For this generation, even the civil rights and student anti-Vietnam movements of the 1960s coincide with their birth and infancy but not with their political experience,’ writes political scientist Alan Fisher.”
There is another generational difference of potentially great consequence: “Unlike their elders, who fought the bitter and wounding battles of the Cold War, this younger generation seems less intense. And religion is often more important in their personal lives. For their elders, Judaism was seen as preventing intermarriage and ‘good’ for maintaining order and decent values rather than as a force that shaped their lives. Irving Kristol told an interviewer that he did not join a synagogue until the ‘80s. In contrast, most of the younger Jewish intellectuals are either traditional or Orthodox Jews. Many are active in their synagogues and attend services regularly.” Old worries, however, have by no means been dissipated: “Having said this, I must also acknowledge that the emergence of a full-bodied Jewish conservatism faces serious obstacles. The term itself turns off most Jews. It connotes a body of reactionary and bigoted ideas. Despite greater affluence and broader acceptance, Jews remain anxious. Recent surveys show that while most Americans feel that anti-Semitism has declined, Jews are convinced it is very much alive and rising.”
Despite the best efforts of people such as Ralph Reed, Jewish fears of “the religious right” remain powerful. Not so, however, with the Jews who will likely be a larger part of the American Jewish future. “And the proportion of Orthodox Jewish voters will grow because of their high birthrate. Their political activism has already been felt. At the close of the ‘80s, Agudath Israel opened an office in Washington, D.C., where once Reform’s Social Action Center and secular Jewish agencies had this turf to themselves. On issues like tuition vouchers for families to send their children to private and parochial schools, Orthodox Jews have effectively allied themselves with Catholic and Evangelical Christian conservatives and have gained the support of senators like Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), who is an Orthodox Jew, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.).” Friedman notes Irving Kristol’s observation that “In America all successful politics is the politics of hope,” and ends on a guardedly hopeful note that the younger generation of conservative—or at least more conservative—Jews has learned that lesson.
The student rebellion redux, but this time opinion leaders are not applauding. It’s happening in Alabama, after all, and this time the students are demanding the right to—would you believe it?—pray. They aren’t yet at the point of taking over administration buildings, but hundreds of them are walking out of classrooms and holding rallies in protest against a ruling by federal judge Ira DeMent.
The judge issued a detailed injunction that prohibits the governor, the attorney general, the state board of education, and everyone else from permitting religious activity in classrooms, including vocal prayer, readings of the Bible, devotional discussions, and distribution of religious materials. It also bans publicly broadcast prayers and invocations at commencement exercises, assemblies, and sporting events. In addition, the ruling appoints monitors to patrol the schools in search of violations. Imagine a report to the authorities: “This monitor did see four students in Room 203 in discussion and did hear the word ‘God’ spoken four times in a tone suspiciously devotional. Moreover, one student read from what appeared to be a New Testament she was carrying on her person.”
It should be obvious to all that Judge DeMent’s order is doing precisely what the federal government is constitutionally forbidden to do, namely, interfering with the free exercise of religion. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Nor shall the federal courts, or so it was thought until Everson (1947) and its judicial progeny. In addition, as parents and others in authority should know, there’s nothing better to spark youthful enthusiasm for something than to forbid it.
The country has been heading toward a DeMent-like showdown for years. Something has to give. The courts, led by the Supreme Court, may relax their entrenched hostility to religion. Or the open defiance of court orders may become more commonplace. Or, as is already happening, many more parents may decide that the only way they can get an acceptable education for their children is outside the government school system.
There is nice irony in the showdown coming in Alabama. Governor Fob James, Jr. says he will defy the order from the federal court. Pamela L. Summers, the ACLU lawyer defending the prohibition of religion, says, “For the governor of a state to do this is exactly like George Wallace standing in the schoolhouse door.” Well, not exactly. There is no doubt a formal similarity, but the substantive difference from the Wallace confrontation is that racial segregation had been declared unconstitutional and was deemed an evil by most Americans. That is not the case with religion. Not yet, and not, I think, in any foreseeable future. It may be the fate of Judge DeMent to go down in history as the fellow who pushed a fatal step too far an interpretation of church-state law that is, if you will permit me, truly demented.
• After three months of cruel interrogation and torture of approximately seven hundred people arrested in connection with the July 20, 1944 plot on Hitler’s life, the Gestapo concluded in its final report: “The entire inner alienation from the ideas of National Socialism which characterized the men of the reactionary conspiratorial circle expresses itself above all in their position on the Jewish question. They stubbornly take the liberal position of granting to the Jews in principle the same status as to every German.” That is from an essay by Peter Hoffman, professor of history at McGill University, in a new book, Hyping the Holocaust: Scholars Answer Goldhagen. Daniel Goldhagen, it will be remembered, slandered all Germans, including resisters who rescued Jews, as anti-Semites in his book Hitler’s Willing Executioners (see “Daniel Goldhagen’s Holocaust,” FT, August/September 1996). Hyping the Holocaust is edited by Franklin Littell, president of the Center on the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights in Philadelphia and one of the early pioneers of Jewish-Christian dialogue. The contributors to the book are Jewish and Christian, American and European. What they have in common is a sense of outrage at Goldhagen’s arrogance, self-righteousness, and exploitation of popular stereotypes. Against Goldhagen, Littell wants to defend “senior scholars” who have spent decades pressing the case for serious research of the Holocaust “long before any young writer or eager publisher could capitalize on the brute fact that today ‘there’s no business like Shoah business.’“ That’s blunt, but not without reason. (Hyping the Holocaust is available at $20
+ $3 postage [checks only] from Center on the Holocaust, P.O. Box 10, Merion Station, PA 19066.) • Let us now, following the counsel of Ecclesiasticus, praise famous men, or at least praise one another. The Tablet of London has a laudatory story on a new booklet praising the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), an organization that, beginning with brilliantly wrongheaded Bertrand Russell, agitated on the wrong side of practically every question of consequence during the Cold War. After celebrating the putative heroes and heroines of CND, the story gets to Bruce Kent, “who, forced to choose between the Catholic priesthood and his peace work, chose the latter. Later he married the booklet’s author, Valerie Flessati.” That closes the circle rather neatly. • The mills grind slowly, but they grind. For more than twenty years now, some of us have been writing about the apparent free fall of mainline/oldline Protestantism. Sociological studies of the phenomenon can be stacked higher than the steeples of largely abandoned churches. But the problem, I persist in believing, is theological. Churches that have nothing definite to say about revealed truth as it informs holiness of life and hope eternal, that offer no indispensable means to both, are churches that can give no convincing reason for their existence and have no claim upon the attention of the culture. So where within those liberal worlds is there evidence that the mills of reform are beginning to grind? There are many answers to that question, but the occasion of this little note is a new series of books, “The Abingdon Press Studies in Christian Ethics and Economic Life.” Max Stackhouse of Princeton Theological Seminary is the general editor and three volumes are already out. Christian Social Ethics in a Global Era, Environmental Ethics and Christian Humanism, and The Business Corporation and Productive Justice. Admittedly, social ethics is not the most important dimension of Christian theology, but the argument can be made that it was with social ethics that the oldline went so wrong several decades ago, and it may be the point, or at least a point, at which the correction can begin. In any event, Prof. Stackhouse and his colleagues are attempting to turn the oldline toward a more biblical and self-critical understanding of what it means to be Christian in the world, and you may want to find out more about the series by writing to Abingdon Press, 201 Eighth Avenue South, Nashville, TN 37203. • “The natural progress of things,” warned Thomas Jefferson, “is for government to gain ground and for liberty to yield.” That is very much what is happening with church and other voluntary agencies that get in bed with the government, according to Joe Loconte in Seducing the Samaritans: How Government Contracts Are Reshaping Social Services. Foreword by Peter Berger. For more information on this important 140-page study, write the Pioneer Institute, 85 Devonshire St., Boston, MA 02109. • Michael Ignatieff is thinking about martyrs, and he observes that the “incorrigibly bourgeois character of modern moral evaluations” has little place for them. “We have turned tame values into a synonym for values tout court. So to us the martyrs’ willingness to sacrifice hearth and home to the demand of truth looks like pathological selfishness.” Jesus’ words about hating father, mother, wife, and children in order to be his disciple are a distinct embarrassment, he says. The occasion for his reflection is a book by Lacey Baldwin Smith, Fools, Martyrs, Traitors: The Story of Martyrdom in the Western World (Knopf). Baldwin tends to think that the martyrs are mainly pathological, with the notable exceptions of the more “ironic” among them, such as Thomas More and Gandhi. Ignatieff notes that Gandhi’s threats to fast to the death were chiefly effective because of a British Raj that was uncertain of its own moral ground. Martyrs such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, he notes, had no moral leverage with the truly ruthless regimes of the modern world. His final reflection is very much worth pondering: “If truth has become relative, if family values have triumphed, and if the modern state has become too cunning and too ruthless to allow martyrs to trouble its hegemony, the end of the martyr tradition in our culture may be at hand. And yet such a conclusion seems both premature and pessimistic. Smith’s account may have been intended to strip away the haloes around our martyrs’ heads, but the effect is simply to make them more human. And since they seem more human, the tradition that they represent seems less like an austere and impossible exercise in fanaticism and more like something the rest of us could admire and, if we had to, emulate. The noble few who value their lives so little continue to inspire the rest of us, even when they make us suspect that we may value our own lives too much.” • Among the more massive betrayals of trust in American life is the long and doleful history of legacies used for purposes at war with the reasons they were originally given. One need mention only Ivy League universities and philanthropies such as the Ford Foundation. The years immediately ahead will, we are told, witness the greatest intergenerational transfer of wealth in the history of the world as people who made big money in the 1980s and 1990s try to figure out what to do with it. A significant help is “Giving Better, Giving Smarter: Renewing Philanthropy in America,” a 120-page report of the National Commission on Philanthropy and Civic Renewal. It is available from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation at P.O. Box 92848, Milwaukee, WI 53202. Of course, an excellent way of making sure that your intentions will be honored is a bequest to the Institute on Religion and Public Life, publisher of FT. If that sounds self-interested, it is also that, but the chief interest is in seeing that this enterprise flourishes long after we are gone to where we no longer see through a journal dimly. • I noted earlier this fine piece of research on college textbooks dealing with marriage and family. Sponsored by the Institute for American Values and directed by Norval Glenn of the University of Texas, the study documents that, with few exceptions, the textbooks focus on the negative—divorce, domestic violence, child abuse, and so forth. “Both by what they say and sometimes, even more importantly, by the information they omit these books repeatedly suggest that marriage is more a problem than a solution,” says the report. Writing for the New York Times, Tamar Lewin notes that the sponsor of the study “is described as somewhere between centrist and conservative.” In further explanation, there is this: “Some members, including Ray Marshall and William Galston, have strong Democratic ties, while others, including Judith Wallerstein and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, are known solely for their writing on family policy.” The implication would seem to be that excessive concern for family policy is conservative and therefore suspect. It appears that Ms. Lewin offers further confirmation of Prof. Glenn’s findings. • Antiphon is the publication of the Society for Catholic Liturgy, a fine organization founded by Monsignor Francis Mannion. The current issue, however, seems to be stretching in order to distinguish the society from similar efforts of a more forthrightly conservative nature. In his editorial, Msgr. Mannion takes note of reflections by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger in an autobiographical work that has not yet appeared in English. Mannion writes: “In the cardinal’s view, the fundamental problem following Vatican II was that the reformed liturgy was ‘presented as a new structure, in opposition to the one which had been formed through history.’ The old structure was ‘dismantled, and its pieces were used to construct another’ to the detriment of liturgical tradition. This made it appear that liturgical development is not a ‘vital process,’ but a product of ‘specialist knowledge and juridical competence.’ The impression developed that ‘the liturgy is “manufactured,” that it is not something which preceded us, something “given,” but that it depends on our decisions.’ The cardinal concludes: ‘For the life of the church, it is dramatically urgent to have a renewal of liturgical awareness, a liturgical reconciliation, which goes back to recognizing the unity in the history of the liturgy and understands Vatican II not as a break, but as a developing moment.” Mannion juxtaposes Ratzinger’s views with those of Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee, who, in an article in America, staunchly defends the liturgical changes of recent decades and blames any confusions on Pope John Paul’s indult of 1984, allowing the use of the Tridentine rite at the discretion of the bishop. “The one point of agreement between Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Weakland,” writes Mannion, “is that the liturgical life of the church today is in crisis. Beyond that, it would be difficult to reconcile their positions. The tendency to take sides is tempting but, in my opinion, it should be suspended. . . . The alternative is continued fruitless polarization and ecclesiastical tribalism.” One can appreciate Msgr. Mannion’s desire to position his society in the center, which is often taken to be the high ground, but his irenicism is a reach too far. Ratzinger is describing a liturgical circumstance that is pervasive and is overwhelmingly supported by the liturgical establishments that brought the circumstance about. Weakland uncritically endorses the status quo—which he calls “the product of the finest thinking within the whole of the Catholic tradition”—and heaps blame for any problems on John Paul II’s pastoral generosity to a relatively small handful of Catholics who prefer the Tridentine rite. Mannion is right that the future should not mean going back to conditions before Vatican II, and Ratzinger is certainly not suggesting that. The point is that Ratzinger’s argument about the sources of our current problems is substantive, while Weakland’s complaint is, to put it kindly, superficial. Taking Ratzinger’s “side” in his analysis of what has gone wrong still leaves plenty of room for honest disagreement about what should be done about it. The high ground in this discussion is not to be found mid-way between the substantive and the silly. • In speaking to pro-life gatherings, I have over the years referred to the New York Times‘ claim in January 1973 that the Supreme Court had “settled” the abortion question. I then follow that with the observation that twenty-five years later it remains the most unsettled question in our public life. Questioned about this, I asked Richard Doerflinger of the bishops’ pro-life office to get the exact quote. On January 23, the day after the 7-2 Roe v. Wade decision, the Times story called the decision “an historic resolution of a fiercely controversial issue.” The editorial the next day said: “The Court’s verdict on abortions provides a sound foundation for final and reasonable resolution of a debate that has divided America too long. As with the division over Vietnam, the country will be healthier with that division ended.” The word “settled” does not appear. I stand corrected. Twenty-five years later, abortion remains the most unresolved question in our public life. • The compassion that kills. Elisabeth Ohlenberg writes in RN (Registered Nurse) about the case of one she calls John Levine at the Veterans Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. At age seventy-three, a cerebral hemorrhage “left him in a persistent vegetative state (PVS),” she writes. At the family’s request, food and hydration were withdrawn. “It took twenty days for Mr. Levine to die—an unusually long time.” Despite being in PVS, “We would talk to him and sometimes he would smile. I’m almost sure he understood what we were saying. When you came near the bed his eyes would look at you as if he knew you were there.” Presumably the nurses did not tell him they were killing him, although ever so caringly. Most of the article is about the emotional stress experienced by nurses, and it offers suggestions on how to handle that. The conclusion: “Clearly, caring for Mr. Levine required a lot from everyone involved. Although there were many bumps along the way, we’re proud of the fact that we were able to provide compassionate and quality nursing care. We’re also confident that we’ll be able to meet whatever challenges future Mr. Levines may bring.” No doubt. • A vibrantly orthodox Presbyterian, John H. Leith is professor of theology emeritus at Union Theology Seminary in Richmond and has recently published Crisis in the Church: The Plight of Theological Education (Westminster/John Knox). The notice in Christian Century is generally positive, but with caveats. “There is some nostalgia, some romanticism about irretrievable good old days, and perhaps more gloom than necessary about the mixed present.” The reviewer does not say how much gloom is necessary. • “When Christians Fight Christians” is a generally thoughtful article by Tim Stafford in Christianity Today. His subtitle is “The Spirit unites, but the American church divides. A field guide for discerning how to handle Christian controversy.” A prime case study, Stafford says, is “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” (ECT), the statement on convergence and cooperation between Catholics and evangelical Protestants that was issued in the spring of 1994 (FT, May 1994). ECT immediately came under attack from prominent evangelicals such as R. C. Sproul, John MacArthur, and D. James Kennedy, who claimed that the evangelicals had sold out the Reformation heritage. Stafford has sage advice on how controversies should be handled, and on the ways that personal fiefdoms in evangelicalism can encourage the propensity for conflict. He notes that the controversy “had little or no intersection with the institutional church. . . . Compare this with previous doctrinal disputes of American Christianity, fought in church councils and denominational publications. Church splits occurred regularly, but they led to the establishment of new churches and new denominations. Churches have members. Parachurch organizations have donors.” For all the peace-seeking wisdom in Stafford’s discussion, one cannot help but notice that references to “American Christians” and “the church” are limited exclusively to evangelical Protestants. While the intention is undoubtedly irenic, the underlying assumption betrays the sectarian habit of mind challenged by ECT, namely, that Catholics are not fellow Christians. The most vocal evangelical critics of ECT have been largely isolated, but old habits die hard. Perhaps it is fair to paraphrase Mr. Stafford: Churches have members. Parachurch magazines have subscribers. • One might think he would learn. Father Robert Drinan, S.J., last year wrote a column supporting President Clinton’s veto of the bill banning partial-birth abortion. Later, prompted by ecclesiastical pressure, he issued a statement saying he did not understand the procedure and supported the Church’s efforts to protect the unborn. Now he writes a column in the National Catholic Reporter puffing a book filled with apocalyptic warnings about the global “population explosion.” Once again, Fr. Drinan apparently fails to understand. According to the latest UN estimates, population growth is dramatically slowing. The annual increase in world population peaked in 1985-90 at eighty-seven million, and has been dropping since. The annual increase is expected to be down to forty-one million in 2050. As Bishop James McHugh of Camden, New Jersey, points out, the book puffed by Fr. Drinan promotes population control by any means so long as they are “respectful of human freedom.” Bishop McHugh observes, “Abortion clearly is not respectful of the freedom of the unborn, and recent reports from Sweden and Japan about government-promoted sterilization of people with disabilities was in fact coercive and dehumanizing.” More pointedly, the bishop adds: “Fr. Drinan claims that Catholics are not supportive of efforts to promote family planning and are noticeably absent from groups trying to control ‘overpopulation.’ He laments the fact that Catholics are unaware of the continual decline in U.S. dollars for birth control programs in foreign nations. One might reasonably presume that Fr. Drinan does not understand the Church’s teaching on responsible parenthood and its link to social development. That teaching was clearly set forth at Cairo, at the International Conference on Woman in Beijing (1995), and at the Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen (1996). It may even be that Father Drinan is unhappy with the Church’s teaching on birth control. If so, he should be more forthright in saying so, rather than hiding behind a misrepresentation of the demographic data.” • Concern about judicial usurpation doesn’t preclude recognizing that judges can sometimes get it right. Trinity Western University of Langley, British Columbia, applied for accreditation of its teacher training program by the British Columbia College of Teachers (BCCT) so that its students would not have to take their last year at a secular university. (Trinity Western is sponsored by the Evangelical Free Church.) Apparently everything was in order until BCCT discovered that Trinity requires that its students abstain from premarital sex, adultery, and homosexual activity while enrolled as students. This, said BCCT, represents “discriminatory practices which are contrary to the public interest and public policy and [may lead] graduates to be biased against homosexual students in the classroom.” Accreditation denied. Nonsense, answered BC Supreme Court Justice W. H. Davies, noting that “since large numbers of TWU graduates are teaching in the public school system, it would have been possible to determine if there had been any incidents of intolerance.” There was no such evidence, Davies concluded, and he ordered BCCT to certify the school. BCCT has appealed the decision, and there things stand for the moment. Imagine, requiring students at a Christian university to behave like Christians. The price of tolerance doesn’t come cheap. • As a young man, I was greatly affected by the writings of O. P. Kretzmann, a clergyman of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod and long-time president of Valparaiso University, Indiana. The literary tone was always autumnal, with leaves falling and Bach’s St. Matthew Passion accompanying his deep reflections, aided by a very dry martini. I was reminded of O. P. in reading the opening passage of a newly translated essay by Hans Urs von Balthasar, “The Fathers, the Scholastics, and Ourselves.” He writes, in a fine translation by Father Ed Oakes: “We are living in a time when the images of gods and idols are crashing all about us. The spiritual and cultural traditions of vast regions of the West are increasingly being called into question; indeed, we can go even further and say they are being liquidated, quickly and relatively painlessly. Just as a tree in autumn drops its leaves without pain or regret, in order to gather once more new strength from within, to renew its powers in hibernal peace, so too the tree of culture is now being stripped of its leaves. Of course, in this, the late autumn of our times, the leaves lie thickly under our feet—and the books thickly in the bookstores; but we aren’t deceived for a moment about that. This colorful yellow and red swarm of leaves is animated no longer by life but, if at all, only by the wind. A small regret might well be permitted us here, just as autumn is the time of the elegiac lyric, but who would want on that account to huddle up under the blankets of an eschatological pathos! We trust the powers of nature, her wise economy, and the laws of her renewal.” The gist of this remarkable essay, however, is not a nostalgic looking back but the development of Christian thought and life according to the “laws of renewal.” Balthasar has rendered the invaluable service of leading many contemporary Christians to a new appreciation of the early church fathers, but in this essay—more than in much of his writing—he makes unmistakably clear that there cannot be any simple “return to the fathers.” The fathers were “the first time out” in Christianity’s engagement with worldly philosophy, notably with Platonism, but scholasticism, especially Thomas, was necessary to bring Christian thought, through Aristotle, to a fuller understanding of the good of creation. Always keeping in mind, as many Thomists have not, that the understanding of nature is emphatically theological; the accent on creation is never at the expense of the Creator. Most surprising to some readers will be Balthasar’s stress on why modernity is in continuity with the development of Christian thought—lifting up the particular, the individual, and, in a word, history as the locus of God’s creating and redeeming work in Christ. It is altogether a remarkable essay and is to be found in the Summer 1997 issue of Communio (number 24). For the theologically interested, it is worth a trip to the library. • “Collective Spirituality Behind Youth Crowds for Pope?” asks the headline of a story in Religion Watch. We don’t usually use the word “collective,” but some Christians, the Apostle Paul included, do think Christianity is a corporate thing, as, for example, in “Church.” The report is based on a sniffishly dismissive article in the Tablet (London) on how the Pope manages to attract crowds of hundreds of thousands and even millions all over the world. “The Pope believes in a powerful, visible, and obedient Church. The large assemblies of Catholics who congregate during his pastoral visits are the best expression of this muscular Christianity. . . . It is interesting to note that those who organize the youth days are the trusted ‘Pope’s legions’: Opus Dei, the Focolare, Communione e Liberazione, charismatics, and the rest, while those who attend are often the vast mass of drifters, of semi-believers, those who seek the warmth and emotion of a mass meeting, whether it be Woodstock, a Billy Graham rally, or St. Peter’s Square.” In fact, events such as the recent world youth gathering in Paris are organized by the local church, but more interesting is the reassurance that properly liberal Tablet types would not be caught dead attending, never mind helping to organize, such gatherings of the great unwashed. “Charismatics and the rest” is a particularly nice touch. It has even been rumored that this pope has approved of eating with tax collectors and sinners. The more decorous Catholics of England cannot help but be nervous about what their Anglican friends will think of them. • Once again, the New York Times editorially criticizes Pope John Paul II for not apologizing for “the silence of Pope Pius XII” during the Nazi horror. This is an old story and I will not repeat what has been said here before about the Times’ editorial praise of Pius XII during and after the war for speaking out on behalf of the victims of Nazism. Nor will I repeat the well known—except perhaps to the current editors of the Times—facts about his role in saving thousands of Jewish lives in Italy and about the hundreds of thousands of Jews rescued by Catholics throughout Europe. I mention the tedious little editorial dig only because it prompted Dimitri Cavalli of the Bronx to write us with an interesting suggestion. Since the Times is so big on apologies, he wonders whether it is not time for Mr. Sulzberger to return the Pulitzer Prize awarded for the systematic lying of its star reporter Walter Duranty, who denied Stalin’s mass murders, and for an editorial apologizing to Ukrainians for the Times’ cover-up of the politically contrived famine that took ten million or more lives. The question is not one of the silence of the Times but of its active prevarication, when accurate reporting might have prompted Western relief to the victims and discouraged the Soviet regime from continuing on its murderous course. Mr. Cavalli doesn’t want to seem judgmental, but he can’t help wondering. Perhaps he does not appreciate that, as Paul Hollander has explained so well, some mass murders are more “politically interesting” than others. • Mother Jones describes itself as a political investigative magazine, so the editor thought a word of explanation was in order when the December issue was devoted to, of all things, religion. Editor Jeffrey Klein protects his backside by reaffirming the conventional lefty orthodoxies, but he is worried that the right is getting all the political advantage from what appears to be a religious resurgence in the country. He concludes his reflection with this: “Nietzsche could not conceive the extent to which religion could be a source of human empowerment. And Marx did not recognize that our desire to connect with a transcendent power runs even deeper than our drive for economic satisfaction. Each of us seeks. How we honor each other’s search will tell the tale of the next millennium.” The cover of the special issue bears the subtitle, “Spirituality is the new religion,” which is exactly right. Religious freedom is important, says Klein, because then “the freer we are to forge our own faiths.” The issue of Mother Jones exemplifies the soulset of those whom our megachurch friends like to call “seekers.” We wish our friends all the best in reaching these folk with the gospel of Christ, but in trying to do so it is good to remember that they understand themselves to be not so much seeking the truth as ultimately committed to the truth of seeking. The goal is not to find the truth but to forge a truth, or, as they say, to “connect.” In sum, Mother Jones’ spirituality is another religion, just as the cover says. Which, of course, is all the more reason for those who have found, and have been found, by the truth to try to reach out to the adherents of this not-so-new religion. • The metaphor of the “wall of separation” has been used incessantly, and often perniciously, in arguments about church-state relations. Of particular interest is an article by Daniel L. Dreisbach in the Summer 1997 issue of the Journal of Church and State, “‘Sowing Useful Truths and Principles’: The Danbury Baptists, Thomas Jefferson, and the ‘Wall of Separation.’“ Dreisbach, professor of law at American University, Washington, D.C., makes the case that Jefferson’s “wall” was intended to separate state and nation in religious matters, not to separate the institutions of religion and all civil government. The conclusion is that, in discussions of church and state, the wall metaphor has long outlived its usefulness, except for those who want to separate the deepest convictions of the people from the conduct of our public life. • When Monsignor Ronald Knox published his translation of the New Testament in 1945, it received rave reviews. Of course that was long before the zillion translations that have succeeded it. Templegate Publishers of Springfield, Illinois, are now bringing it back into print, which was the occasion for looking again at an achievement that impressed me greatly many years ago, and that I have too much neglected. It is still very impressive indeed. For information on this handsome paperback, write the publishers at 302 E. Adams St., Box 5152, Springfield, IL 62705. • The titans clash. Jonathan Kwitny has written an interestingly awful book on Pope John Paul II, Man of the Century. Father Andrew Greeley trashed it in Book World, the review of the Washington Post. Kwitny publishes a long letter there protesting that he and Greeley have had very sharp personal disagreements, that Greeley was manifestly biased, and that his review is riddled with errors. Greeley responds defending his review but not denying the personal animosity to Kwitny. Finally, the editor of Book World writes, “I do see a potential conflict of interest in anyone’s reviewing a book in which he [i.e., Greeley] is mentioned fifteen times and with whose author he has quarreled.” She notes that Greeley did sign the standard reviewer contract that stipulates, “If you have had any contact, friendly or otherwise, with the author of this book . . . please let Book World know immediately.” Apparently Fr. Greeley did not read the fine print. But then, some things are understood. • At least for most of us mere mortals, admitting that we’re wrong is not easy. No, this item is not to commend my humility but that of the board of the National Association of Biology Teachers. Their October meeting had before it a “Statement on Teaching Evolution” that included this: “The diversity of life on earth is the outcome of evolution: an unsupervised, impersonal, and unpredictable and natural process of temporal descent from genetic modification that is affected by natural selection, chance, historical contingencies, and changing environments.” Prof. Alvin Plantinga of Notre Dame and Prof. Huston Smith, emeritus of Syracuse University, wrote asking the board to drop the words “unsupervised” and “impersonal.” After a ten-minute discussion, the board unanimously resolved not to do so. At dinner that evening, the board members got to discussing the question and the next day unanimously reversed themselves. It goes to show what giving a little thought to a matter can do. “We decided that we had construed a meaning we had not intended,” said executive director Wayne W. Carley. “The statement was interpreted to mean we were saying there is no God. We did not mean to imply that. That’s beyond the purview of science.” There’s a bit of grammatical confusion there about who intended the construing of whose implied interpretation, or whatever, but the point is clear enough. Professors Plantinga and Smith are pleased, as they should be. Now they might take on other aspects of the statement, such as the exclusion of alternative or complementary explanations for the diversity of life on earth. • Several years ago there was an enormous ruckus in New York City about introducing into the public schools books such as Heather Has Two Mommies and Daddy’s Roommate. The effort was turned back, for the most part, in New York, but now these and other readers are being used in Seattle. Not surprisingly, some parents are unhappy and a few have withdrawn their children from the public schools. The school board is not entirely of one mind, and one member, Ellen Roe, has some sympathy for the protesting parents. “We have to present both sides of the story,” she says. It was not that long ago that presenting both sides of the story meant pointing out that, however odd it may seem, some people think homosexuality is not a bad thing. Now it means pointing out that, however odd it undoubtedly is, some people think homosexuality is not a good thing. Yes, indeed, let’s make sure both sides of the story are presented, so long as it doesn’t interrupt the progress of the story line. • The nepotism is disturbing enough, but the real pity is the parasitic cabal scrambling for shards of the great public moment that was the civil rights movement under the leadership of Martin Luther King, Jr. The New York Times reports the election of Martin Luther King III as president of “that eminent civil rights group,” the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Hardly eminent any more, and not likely to become so again under the direction of the great man’s thirty-nine-year-old son, whose chief distinction to date is to lose a county commissioner’s race when it was found that he owed $20
1,000 in back taxes. He did have a moment when he was bold enough to suggest that there might be something wrong with homosexuality, but promptly apologized under pressure, calling his remarks “uninformed and insensitive.” The claustrophobic world of a superannuated civil rights leadership is underscored by noting the other leading contenders for the job that went to Mr. King: Ralph David Abernathy III, son of the great man’s second in command, who was, unlike some others of that company, a man without guile; Walter E. Fauntroy, who for more than thirty years has been dining out on his having marched in the 1960s; and Adam Clayton Powell IV, former New York City councilman and heir to the Harlem legend. It is all yesteryear. All feeding off the past. The visionary Mr. King says the great challenge for the future is restoring welfare entitlements and protecting affirmative action. It is all unspeakably sad. • The bad news, according to Associated Press, is that America’s trade deficit with China widened by another ten billion dollars this past fall because of the flood of imported toys and Christmas decorations. The really bad news is that millions of Christians in China are persecuted for their faithfulness to Christ. China is very enthusiastic about Christianity elsewhere. • There is a strong student movement at Georgetown University—supported also by non-Catholic Christians, Jews, and Muslims—to have crucifixes put up in all the classrooms. They think a university “in the Jesuit tradition” should also say something about being Catholic, and the student newspaper, the Hoya, agrees. The administration is putting off a response until a new study, “Centered Pluralism,” is completed. Jesuit faculty member Father Thomas Reese says the movement is a “tempest in a teapot.” He also says, “It’s rearranging chairs on the Titanic.” Some people are born phrase makers. He does not explain the parallels between Georgetown and the Titanic, but it sounds as though there may be more grave problems than the lack of crosses on classroom walls. Fr. Reese does go on to say: “What we’re trying to deal with at a Catholic university is how you intelligently have a dialogue from Christian tradition with a pluralistic culture and how you inspire students who come through this institution in a way that will help them live lives as Christians and make a difference in making the world a better place.” And, he might have added, to be nice people who don’t impose their values on others. The diatalk of dialogue goes on and on like that. It is said that Georgetown is very big on not imposing Catholic values. It will not even impose them on itself. That is possibly unfair. • It was no big deal according to the White House. The President gave a major speech at the Human Rights Campaign dinner. With 200,000 claimed members, it is the largest gay and lesbian organization in the world and contributed $1.2 million in the last election campaign. Until now, no President had ever addressed a homosexual advocacy group and the White House is usually eager to trumpet “breakthroughs” by this administration. Not this time. Press secretary Michael D. McCurry said, “The President has done literally dozens of community outreach events this year. He was just at the National Italian-American Foundation dinner last week.” And you know how controversial is the lifestyle of those Italian Americans. • There was the vaulting presumption of “We Are the World” some years ago, an international rock concert raising consciousness about whales and the such. Then Catholics in Germany and Austria started “We Are Church,” a petition drive to get the Church in tune with their presumably refined moral sensibilities about contraception, women priests, married clergy, democratic decision making, and so forth. I have never figured out the significance of the dropping of the definite article, but it is possibly part of the oceanic sensation of immersion in the All that is such a marked feature of current spiritualities. In any event, here in the U.S. “We Are Church” was going to get a million signatures (from sixty million Catholics) protesting the wicked patriarchy, but fell far, far short of that, even though its promoters resorted to bribing school children to get their parents and friends to sign. Now Catholic Trends reports that 2.5 million signatures, collected in twenty countries, have been presented to the Vatican. That represents about one in four hundred Catholics, if the signatures are authentic and if the signers are Catholic, neither of which is verified. Considering the effort put into the campaign and the favorable media attention, the outcome would seem to be a resounding vote of confidence in the Church’s leadership. The signatures were received by a kindly low-level priest at the office of the Vatican Secretary of State. It is the pastorally responsible thing to meet with anybody, even with funny, albeit humorless, people who go around announcing, “We Are Church.” • Once a year my inner onomastician is allowed out to comment on the names they’re giving boys and girls these days. As it happens, things haven’t changed much in the last thirty years. Gravitas for the boys and glitter for the girls. The top names for girls in New York City (which doesn’t differ that much from the nation in this respect): Ashley, Jessica, Samantha, Stephanie, Nicole, Amanda, Jennifer, Sarah, Michelle, Emily. For boys: Michael, Christopher, Anthony, Kevin, Daniel, Joseph, Matthew, Justin, Jonathan, David. Solid citizens all, and mostly biblical. Kevin is number one for Asian boys, suggesting that Asians eager to assimilate think the Irish are the real Americans. Malik has this year replaced Michael as number one for black boys. (Malik means “angel” in Arabic.) A lot of girls are being named Randy, Kelly, Shannon, and Dana, all being traditionally male names—as, of course, are Ashley, Stephanie, and Michelle. Traditional female names do not transfer to the male column in the same way. It would seem that a boy with a girl’s name is in deep trouble on the school playground, while there is a certain panache for a girl with a boy’s name. Onomasticians say parents choose names because they are popular and then stop choosing them when they become too popular. Robert, John, and William were at the top until the 1950s, along with Mary for girls. Now none of them is even in the top ten, unless you count Jonathan for John. I know that readers wait breathlessly for this annual report on names. Year after year the conclusion is the same: to judge by name giving, it’s still a boy’s world. We do our bit to remedy this by reminding parents of girls that there is Sarah (which does make the list), Mary (in all its variations), Esther, Rebecca, Ruth, Faith, Hope, Charity, and a host of others. It is pleasant to think that, after all the media attention upon her death last September, there are now a lot of little Teresas out there. I fear, however, that there are many more Dianas. • The Long Term View is a journal published by the Massachusetts School of Law and the current issue is devoted to judicial misconduct. Among the authors is David J. Owsiany of the Federalist Society, who writes: “If the First Things symposium shows anything, it is that if runaway federal courts continue to usurp authority from the political branches, reasonable people may question the legitimacy of the government. At the present stage, those questioning our government’s legitimacy are relatively few, but if courts intrude into taxation, criminal justice, education, and employment, those numbers could grow. A national debate regarding the appropriate role of the judiciary must take place. The American public must know that the stakes are high. As James Madison wrote in Federalist 51, ‘In the compound republic of America, the power surrendered by the people is first divided between two distinct governments (federal and state), and then the portion allotted to each subdivided among distinct and separate departments (separation of powers). Hence a double security arises to the rights of the people.’ When a federal court strikes down a state law merely because it disagrees with the law’s provisions, the court does more than just eliminate a statute. The court upsets the balance between federal and state powers, and crosses the boundaries of the separation of powers established in the Constitution. The consent of the people is lost.” • The Economist ran a fittingly admiring obituary on Viktor Frankl which quoted “First Things, an American journal of philosophy.” Kristen Haas of Grand Rapids, Michigan, dropped the editors a note pointing out that we are a journal of religion, to which she received the reply: “Dr. Frankl was reluctant to allow religion to creep into articles about him, so we respected his wishes.” That religion creeps is interesting. That quoting a journal of philosophy rather than a journal of religion is thought more suited to the Economist’s upmarket self-image seems probable. Most fascinating, however, is the implication that the editors consulted Viktor Frankl about his obituary. Before he died, presumably. In fact, Dr. Frankl was quite prepared to speak about religion, as witness Matthew Scully’s “Viktor Frankl at Ninety: An Interview” (FT, April 1995). • When concern for persecuted Christians around the world really began to build up steam, some of the more established human rights groups were thrown into a tizzy. They certainly didn’t like being accused of having ignored the persecution of Christians in the past. Some responded initially by belittling the persecution. Bill Schulz, executive director of Amnesty International USA, says the reaction of some human rights leaders has been “defensive.” He wants to make it clear to his constituency that “my credentials as a political and religious left-winger are pretty solid.” And he does not fail to ask, with some justice, “Where, after all, has the evangelical community been for the past thirty years when it comes to human rights?” Having reassured his liberal friends that he’s not switching sides, Schulz goes on to say, “I frankly welcome to the human rights struggle all those who genuinely care about human suffering, no matter what their views of God or the state. As I have said often, I think the public constituency for human rights in this country is shockingly small. The only way we will ever build it is by reaching out to those of all political and religious stripes (to say nothing of cultural and racial backgrounds) to enlist them in our cause. . . . No, it is not enough to be concerned about any one group, Christians or otherwise. And no, religious freedom cannot be separated from political freedom; we must care about it all. But blood flows red, regardless of your color, politics, or faith, and perhaps lamenting the treatment of your coreligionists overseas may motivate you to feel similarly about the plight of others. If human rights mean anything, they mean treating people as individuals and not stereotypes. The struggle for a civil world is not solely the prerogative of liberals. . . . So as we plunge into a new Amnesty year, let’s welcome everyone who comes our way, and let’s assume that they are (at least) as pure in heart as we.” Purity of heart yet. It is a real challenge to have to live up to the standards of contemporary liberalism. • Some people persist in saying “Saint” Valentine’s Day, so the school board in Hillsborough, New Jersey, changed it to Special Person Day. The children are still permitted to give cards, so long as there is no suggestion that they have a special person in mind. There must be a card for everyone in the class. As for Christmas (“December season”), gift giving is out, since the board “considered gift giving a religious activity.” They may have a point there. From the potlatch to the magi, giving gifts is dangerously entangled with obligation, gratitude, and other sensibilities that, pushed far enough, inevitably raise the You Know Who question. And surely we must protect the greedy little tikes from that sort of thing. • It is true that students in journalism school rank near the bottom of the academic heap, but they have the perverse consolation of looking down at those in education. Item: the Teachers College Record of Columbia Teachers College. The lead article in this issue is by David C. Berliner of Arizona State University, “Educational Psychology Meets the Christian Right.” The Christian Right does not come off at all well. Its members “are among the most unrelenting contemporary critics of public schools [and] some seek the destruction of public education.” It seems that many seek to destroy the public schools by taking their children out of them. “They emphasize physical punishment, the breaking of children’s will, and obedience to authority. Such theories cannot be supported by modern psychology.” That sounds bad enough but it is not the worst of it. “Furthermore, these child-rearing practices are totally incompatible with the constructivist models of learning that form the basis for educational reforms.” And we all know what a great success those models have been. “The antagonism of the Christian Right to these programs is based on a fear of losing control over their children’s thinking, rather than any compelling empirical data.” There you have it, uppity parents challenging the experts for control over their children’s thinking. The conclusion of the article is that “many among the Christian Right are unable to engage in politics that make a common school possible. They may be unable to compromise and live with educational decisions reflecting a pluralistic democracy keeping separate church and state.” Oh dear. But if that’s the case, maybe it’s better for everyone that they not have their children in the public schools. Perhaps that’s the point Prof. Berliner is making, but I don’t think so. He seems to hope that those millions of parents will simply disappear, or maybe he has some unnamed plan for getting rid of them. But no, he indicates that we’ll have to put up with them, at least for a while. “It is one of the great paradoxes of democracy that in the interest of pluralism we must tolerate a group out to destroy a public institution dedicated to the preservation of pluralism,” he writes. On the contrary, it is not a paradox but a paradigm of democracy that people exercise their democratic freedoms in ways with which we disagree. Be that as it may, those Christians who presume to take responsibility for their children’s thinking have been given fair notice that the tolerance of Prof. Berliner and Columbia Teachers College is wearing thin. • We will be pleased to send a sample issue of this journal to people whom you think are likely subscibers. Please send names and addresses to First Things, 156 Fifth Avenue, Suite 400, New York, NY 10010.