Saturday, June 26, 2021

Our Increasingly Unrecognizable Civilization


Our Increasingly Unrecognizable Civilization

Mark Steyn
Host, The Mark Steyn Show

Mark Steyn, host of The Mark Steyn Show, writes regularly at and has contributed to numerous publications, including the Daily TelegraphThe Irish TimesThe Wall Street Journal, and The Jerusalem Post. He is the author of several books, including Lights Out: Islam, Free Speech, and The Twilight of the WestAmerica Alone: The End of the World As We Know It, and The [Un]documented Mark Steyn. A frequent guest host of Tucker Carlson Tonight, he was for 15 years a guest host of The Rush Limbaugh Show. His albums include Making Spirits Bright, with Jessica Martin, and Feline Groovy: Songs for Swingin’ Cats. From 2008 to 2013, he was a Eugene C. Pulliam Distinguished Visiting Fellow in Journalism at Hillsdale College.


The following is adapted from a speech delivered on April 26, 2021, at a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar in Franklin, Tennessee.

I live about 20 minutes south of the Canadian border, which used to be called the longest undefended frontier in the world. People moved freely back and forth across it all day every day. But now it’s been closed for over a year. At one point my daughter asked me to drive her up there, because there was a 30-minute opportunity for people on one side to talk to their friends on the other. “Sad!” as President Trump would say. It was like Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin during the Cold War, except that both sides are now like East Berlin. 

I don’t know how this happened, but it is just one indication that America, and the West in general, have become almost unrecognizable from what they were not that long ago.

Look at just three things we have lost. 

One is equality before the law, something absolutely essential to a free society. In its place, we now have politicized law. If a policeman fatally shoots someone, whether his name is released to the public depends on whether the shooting is consistent with the preferred narrative of the ruling class. A policeman recently took down a young woman who was threatening the life of another young woman with a knife, and that policeman was immediately identified—indeed, his photo was posted and he was threatened by NBA superstar LeBron James on Twitter. On the other hand, we know nothing of the policeman who shot dead an unarmed woman in the U.S. Capitol on January 6. His name will apparently never be released to the public.

Second, border control. Functioning societies, at least since the Peace of Westphalia three centuries ago, have borders. America has no southern border and no plans to get one. The official position of our government seems to be that any of the seven billion persons on this planet has a right to come and stay in the U.S. for three years, until his or her assigned court date comes up. As the number of people with pending cases continues to grow, that three years will extend out to five or seven or 15 years. If we get all seven billion people to come here, the court system will break down entirely and maybe we can go back to having a functioning border.

And third, dare I bring up the fact that it is a real question whether we can go back to agreeing to have open and honest elections? And if we don’t have open and honest elections, control of our borders, and equality before the law, then we don’t have the conditions for politics or free government. 

And here’s the thing. It is not at all clear to me that many of America’s conservative politicians understand the seriousness of all this. You can see it in the fact that they go around trying to scare people with the specter of a “radical socialist agenda.” For well over a year now, we have been living in a world in which it’s accepted as normal that the state has essentially unlimited power—and in which our freedom to decide for ourselves has been diminished almost to invisibility. Why do these conservative politicians think the words “radical socialist agenda” still scare anyone in a time when the state can tell us whether we can have Aunt Mabel over for Christmas? They are completely out of touch.

Over the same period as the pandemic lockdowns, we have seen an escalation of so-called wokeness. And if you look at one of the most startling manifestations of this, transgender fanaticism—which involves, after all, the abolition of biological sex and, I’m sorry to have to say it, the physical mutilation of children—one notices that America is farther down this road than any other country in the Western world. In other words, at this moment of crisis for Western Civilization, or for what we used to call Christendom, the leading country of the free world is pulling the wrong way.

Think of it. Your daughter has been training since she was a little girl to run in school sports. Now at 17, she’s in the state high school track championships, and you are forbidden even to notice that she’s competing against a woman who is 6’2” with thighs like tugboats, a great touch of five o’clock shadow on her face, and the most muscular bosom you’ve ever seen. You’re not supposed to notice the craziness of this, and the craziness is at its craziest right here in America.

We traditionally think of France as being a bit screwy, but today there are French intellectuals who regard themselves as hardcore leftists and yet who think America has gone bonkers on this transgender issue. President Macron himself has said that American wokeness is an existential threat to the French Republic, and he even found bureaucrats in France’s education bureaucracy who agreed. There is not a single bureaucrat in the Department of Education in Washington, D.C., who would agree, but there are apparently a few in Paris.

If you look further east in Europe to the lands that were once behind the Iron Curtain—to Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic, which still function as conventional nation-states calculating their best interests—you find tremendous fear of the threat of wokeness that is being exported, sometimes aggressively, from America. So it is here in the U.S. where we have to put the stake through these ideas. 

But again, even most of our conservative leaders and institutions seem oblivious. School districts in America are talking about revising their curricula to cover transgender issues from grade school on. Now, I went to an English boys’ school, and we were expected to pick up sexuality on our own time. In those days people would have looked puzzled if you had said, “We’re going to have to cancel geography or Latin, because we need to put gay studies in there.” These days, instead of going off behind the bike shed during recess to learn about sex, kids need to sneak behind the bike shed to do a little bit of closeted geography or closeted Latin. It’s completely backwards. And yet what do we hear from most conservative politicians? That it would be nice to offer people a tax cut! 

We are way beyond tax cuts. We’re broke. We’re just a smidgen away from $30 trillion in federal debt—something with no historical precedent. Talking about tax cuts today is like talking about VAT tax refunds on the Titanic. It’s not actually what’s necessary at the moment.

Another big issue that should take our minds off tax cuts is China. I can’t get over the way we in the U.S. have been ordered by our governors and the CDC to punish ourselves by living small, shrunken lives, while the people in China who loosed this pandemic on the world have paid no price for it. 

Dr. Fauci has been a federal government bureaucrat since 1968. He’s the J. Edgar Hoover of public health. He talks about the COVID virus as if we’re at war. But he seems to think a country wins a war by taking it out on its own population rather than the enemy, which is what we’ve done.

Which do you think was the only major economy to grow in 2020? It’s not a hard question. America’s economy shrank 3.5 percent last year. The economies of Germany and Japan shrank almost five percent. France’s, Italy’s, and India’s economies all shrank over eight percent, and the economy of the United Kingdom was down ten percent. China’s economy, on the other hand, grew 2.3 percent in 2020, and first quarter growth for 2021 in China set a new world record—it was up over 18.3 percent. The COVID pandemic has been hugely profitable for China. 

U.S. policy towards China since the 1990s represents perhaps the biggest strategic miscalculation by any great power in human history. Just as communism was wobbling and beginning to fall everywhere else, we helped Beijing come up with the first economically viable form of communism.

At first we were told it was only our manufacturing that we would ship to China. After all, we were told, it wasn’t economically viable for Americans to make widgets. Remember the talk in the ’90s? We were going to be the “knowledge economy.” All the clever people told us this. We weren’t going to have mills and factories, but we were going to be the knowledge economy. Well, in case you haven’t noticed, China’s got the entire knowledge economy for itself now. It makes our laptops and our smartphones and it’s out front with Huawei and 5G. It also makes the batteries that power our gizmos and the chips that run our cars. When COVID struck, we found out fast that the Chinese not only make our viruses, they also make the personal protective equipment that protects us against the viruses—and all of our medicines to boot! Those wily Chinese get you both coming and going.

China is now the number one global power. You can define this militarily, where it now has the largest surface fleet on the planet. You can define it economically. But the way I define it is to look at who gets its way in the world. New Zealand has just effectively pulled out of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing arrangement—an arrangement between the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, the oldest such arrangement on the planet. New Zealand has pulled out with respect to China because it doesn’t want to offend China. I would think Canada might be the next to go. Or look at the World Health Organization. America pays for it, but Chairman Xi in Beijing calls the shots. China gets its way now, and the U.S. doesn’t.

We need politicians with a sense of urgency about these problems, but all they seem to have is urgency about things that aren’t urgent. Look at climate change. People say we need to take action over climate change or else rising sea levels are going to overwhelm the Maldives in the Indian Ocean in the 22nd century. That’s the century after this one, which is still quite young. These same people say about the immediate crisis on the southern border that it’s “a natural phenomenon beyond the control of politicians.” But changing the weather in order to lower the sea levels that will threaten the Maldives in the Indian Ocean in the next century is within the power of politicians? In general, our leaders are urgent about nothing that matters and not in the least bit urgent about things that matter very much. 

The things our news media talks about incessantly, whether it’s transgender bathrooms or Confederate statues being toppled or the totally dishonest national conversation on race—nothing like this is heard in China as it goes along steadily strengthening its position as the world’s leading power. The Chinese don’t find themselves stuck in these sterile, drain-circling, dishonest public conversations about identity politics. These conversations are a waste of time. And one thing we should demand of our politicians is that they talk about things that aren’t a waste of time. 

At the root of our problems is that we have seen the emergence of a true ruling class, like Grand Dukes in medieval Europe. Its members intermarry. They send their kids to the same schools. They circulate back and forth between government and the private sector. And over time it has become increasingly easy to identify members of this class.

John Kerry gave a commencement address a couple of years ago in which he told the students, “You are going to be the first generation to live in a borderless world.” And for the elite, the idea of a borderless world rings true. A typical member of the ruling class will get a job with a firm like Goldman Sachs, work for a couple of years in Hong Kong, then move on for a couple of years in Geneva, and then maybe come back to America. What are borders to such a person? Meanwhile, for the common American, COVID has literally ended, to a large degree, any freedom of movement. They live in the farthest thing from a borderless world. Oftentimes they’re trapped in a town that is dying because of the open-border, cheap-labor policies advocated by people like John Kerry. 

Our political division in America today is a class division, and we need to expose it as such whenever we see it. The ruling class tries to keep racial and other forms of division stirred up in our politics so that we don’t notice the class protection racket they are running. Look at that guy from Twitter, Jack Dorsey, who wears a beard like he’s playing the hobo in a Charlie Chaplin silent film. I wouldn’t mind betting that when he’s called to testify in Congress, he has his valet hook on the beard and lower him into the clothes that make him look like he’s been sleeping in a dumpster. Then at night after the cameras are off he’s like Lord Grantham in Downton Abbey, spending an hour being dressed for dinner. Our elites have become incredibly good at theater.

Getting back to the southern border, it perfectly symbolizes the bifurcation of our society. We’re told there’s a health emergency. We’re told we can’t open our businesses or attend weddings or funerals. Yet at the same time, every day, thousands of people pour across the southern border, test positive for COVID, and are then driven to a nice hotel and put up there at taxpayers’ expense. 

It’s also interesting to compare the southern border with the northern. Prior to the pandemic, when the border with Canada was open, my kids had their Kinder Eggs confiscated by the Department of Homeland Security when we would cross the border going south into Vermont. Kinder Eggs are chocolate eggs with a kid’s toy inside. They are sold in Canada, but they are banned in the U.S. because the Food and Drug Administration calls the toy a “non-nutritive embed”—and that’s good enough to send Homeland Security agents swinging into action! There is always a big crackdown before Easter on Kinder Eggs. So at the northern border there are lots of things, down to Kinder Eggs, that are illegal. But at the southern border you can come in with pretty much anything you want, including COVID. Why is that? It is because some groups serve the needs of the ruling class and others don’t. License is extended to the former and not the latter. 

People ask me, “Why are you going on about Kinder Eggs? They’re not important. It’s more important that  so-and-so is up two points in Iowa and three points in New Hampshire. That could be a real game changer.” To which I answer no, that’s not how it works. If they take the small freedoms away from you, whether it’s the freedom to eat Kinder Eggs or to enjoy a high pressure shower, you will lose all the larger freedoms, which is the world we’re in now. 

I used to get occasional pushback when I’d talk about rights. “Rights are abstract things,” people would say—“they don’t have anything to do with our real lives.” Well, after the last year, we know they have everything to do with our real lives. When you’re told you can’t open your hair salon, when you’re told you can’t have family or friends over for dinner, when you’re told you must wear a mask in your own garden, there’s nothing abstract about it. This is where all the stupid Kinder Egg laws have been trending for years. And it’s why we need to push back.

I made a little joke earlier about studying transgenderism in grade school, but it’s not a laughing matter. Education is the biggest structural defect in our society. We have an almost entirely corrupt and abusive education establishment. And in one corner of Governor Whitmer’s Michigan, of all places, Hillsdale College stands against this. Hillsdale’s literature, I’ve noted through the years, talks a lot about the College’s 177 years of being rooted in the soil of Michigan. And this reminds me of the fact that if you do not have roots, you are not a functioning society. You can’t just be flotsam and jetsam, bobbing around on the currents of the age, wheresoever they tend. If you do that, you’re cut off from your roots.

This is what’s so frightening about the trends in education today. Cromwell told his portrait painter, “Paint me, warts and all.” That’s not what is happening in America, where the trend in education is to paint only America’s warts. So even the great Kate Smith, who sang “God Bless America” for years, is having her statue taken down because she made a racially insensitive record in 1931. Well you know who really had a racially insensitive record in 1931? The Democratic Party. But unlike Kate Smith’s statue, it’s still around. 

President Macron of France is not my favorite chap—he’s a sinister globalist for one thing. But he made an admirable stand when he announced that not one French statue would be taken down and not a single French street name would be changed, because they are all part of French history. And “Bingo!” as Peter Navarro likes to say, the statue toppling and street-name changing in France went away. Why can’t American conservatives show that kind of strength? The Senate Minority Leader says he personally would not be bothered if the historical names of U.S. military bases are changed. The editor of National Review says that he wouldn’t be bothered about taking down Confederate statues. But of course it doesn’t stop there—now they’re going for all the statues. Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, McKinley, and on and on. The point conservatives need to grasp is, unless you’re prepared to surrender everything, don’t surrender anything.

I’ll end by pointing out that the Left wins because it seizes language. Take the policy of letting people vote who are not U.S. citizens and shouldn’t be voting. The Left calls this policy “counting every vote.” Therefore someone who wants to make sure voters are citizens is opposed to “counting every vote.” If we don’t take back the language, we will lose the truth. Even on FOX News, I have noticed, news anchors now talk about “gender assigned at birth,” as if that’s something different from one’s biological sex. There may be 57 genders, but there are only two biological sexes. 

Don’t surrender the language. Reclaim the language. It’s the first step to recovering our civilization.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Brave nun warns people away from COVID jab, cites numerous deaths, severe injuries

Brave nun warns people away from COVID jab, cites numerous deaths, severe injuries

‘Since January, I’ve been asked to pray for 50 people who have died,’ following the COVID injection. ‘In the end, what this crisis is about, is the battle between good and evil and what is at stake are souls.’

LONDON, June 2, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — Last weekend, anti-lockdown protestors in London, U.K., were welcomed by Catholic nuns from the historic Tyburn convent, one of whom revealed that she had been asked to pray for “50 people who have died” following the reception of COVID-19 experimental vaccines. The brave nun later gave a powerful email interview to LifeSiteNews, providing shocking details of the incidents which had been entrusted to the convent’s prayers, urging people to have hope, and to strengthen their prayer life in the face of a what is ultimately a “battle between good and evil.”

In London, Unite for Freedom marchers protesting coronavirus restrictions and vaccine passports were greeted by a group of cheering nuns as they made their way past Marble Arch.One of the sisters, Mother Marilla, the Mother General, addressed the protestors, encouraging them as they marched through the streets of the capital.

“You were made in the image and likeness of God. You were born free,” she said. “Don’t let them take your freedoms away from you.”

She also warned against the much-hyped experimental coronavirus injections. “Protect the children, and under no conditions let them have that vaccine, it kills people,” she stated.

“Since January, I’ve been asked to pray for 50 people who have died. I’ve been a nun for 28 years, and all my life I’ve never been asked for anybody, to pray for anybody who’s died or even been injured by a vaccine. Only once in 2015, a young girl, but since January this year, 2021, 50 people we’ve been asked to pray for who have died from the vaccine.”

Her warning is not without supporting data. In the U.S., data show that “between Dec. 14, 2020 and May 21, a total of 262,521 total adverse events were reported to Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), including 4,406 deaths — an increase of 205 over the previous week — and 21,537 serious injuries, up 3,009 since last week.”

The Defender noted that of those deaths, “23% occurred within 48 hours of vaccination, 16% occurred within 24 hours and 38% occurred in people who became ill within 48 hours of being vaccinated.”

There were also “527 reports of miscarriage or premature birth,” out of the 1,641 pregnant mothers who voluntarily reported adverse reactions to the injection to VAERS.

Meanwhile, weekly data released by the government in the U.K. records over 851,000 adverse reactions following the coronavirus injections, including 1,213 deaths.

147 mothers have reported miscarriages or stillbirths following the injection, and despite this, the U.K.’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JVCI) advised that pregnant mothers can take the COVID injections. Both the U.K. and the U.S. data is collated based on voluntary reports, and is estimated by the official bodies themselves, to account for between 1% to 10% of the actual adverse effects.

Mother Marilla revealed in the video that people had contacted the convent asking for prayers for those who had died, not only in London and England, but in Ireland, and further overseas also.

The marchers, who numbered in the hundreds of thousands, up to a million, greeted the nuns warmly, with many hugging and thanking the religious sisters for their encouragement and prayers.

“Have courage, we’re praying for you. Have courage,” said Mother.

The nuns are from London’s Tyburn convent, and are part of the Benedictine Adorers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus of Montmartre, an order which has been based in Tyburn since 1901. Their life is centered around Eucharistic adoration, and as such, there is always at least one nun praying in the chapel before the exposed Blessed Sacrament. The day is further punctuated with communal chanting of the Divine Office seven times a day, and daily Mass.

Tyburn itself is the site of infamous Tyburn Tree, the gallows on which criminals were hung. During the era of Catholic persecution, many Catholic martyrs were hung, drawn, and quartered at the site – the penalty given for committing treason by being a Catholic.

In the crypt of the convent are many relics of some of the more well-known martyrs of the persecution, including Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of Ireland, St. Oliver Plunkett, who was the last Tyburn martyr.

Mother Marilla speaks to LifeSite

LifeSiteNews contacted the convent and spoke with Mother Marilla via email, who generously shed further light on the brief comments she made to protestors at the weekend. She stated first of all that she could not allow herself to remain silent on the issue of the COVID-19 injections: “This is a subject that my conscience will not allow me to remain silent about.”

Before proceeding, Mother asked for prayers for the convent, anticipating backlash after her public witness, especially given that footage of her discussions with the protestors has already been rapidly spread across social media channels worldwide.

“I ask your prayers that our congregation may be protected,” she wrote. “The sisters are with me and are encouraging me to give this witness. We are desperate to save lives.”

Straight Talk About Gays

Straight Talk About Gays

Rev. John H. Hampsch, C.M.F.

      Among the many letters of inquiry that cross my desk almost daily was an angry letter I received recently from the mother of a gay young man. She had grieved over the discovery of her son's sexual orientation, but through a self-help group for parents of gays, she finally accepted the situation, and went even further to vent her resentment against what she mistakenly thought was "the Church'sattitude toward homosexuals." Besides her son, she had met many truly good persons who, she said were "born with this God-given sexual preference." Reminding me that "God doesn't make junk," she asked why such sexual orientation was associated with sin and the devil in many Christian sermons and articles dealing with this subject. If homosexuality is God's design for these persons, she reasoned, why should they be told to regard it as  something wrong, abnormal, or sinful? And why should they be told to substitute a heterosexual preference-if that is possible at all?

    Her letter, though full of anger, seemed well-reasoned. It deserved an answer more satisfying than a mere statement of platitudes or a naked reaffirmation of traditional Christian teaching on this matter, or an "obey-and-don't-ask-why" response. But since discussion of the morality of homosexuality, like that of abortion, birth control, etc., is often cluttered with emotional arguments and much ignorance about what the Church really teaches, I realized that my answer would probably be unavailing, no matter how well documented Scripturally , ecclesiastically or rationally. In discussion of this matter, reason and God's revelation are often forced to take a back seat. 

     Many TV talk shows, for instance, Or support groups for parents of gays that could and should provide helpful "moral" support, often provide only "immoral" support by ignoring or distorting God's laws, his holy word, and the God-supported teaching of his Church. Even some well-intentioned clergy, in their pastoral efforts to be compassionate, often unfortunately compromise God's revealed truth.

      The Church would certainly agree that "God doesn't make junk." The Church would also agree that most gays are born with same-sex orientation. Jesus seems to agree with that assertion in referring to "eunuchs born that way" (Matt. 19:12). In fact, two recent but debatable researches seem to indicate that there are brain structures unique to homosexuals; this may suggest a genetic cause (if the brain variants do not prove to be an effect) of homosexual thought and behavior .

     It amazes me that there are still so many who do not yet know that the Church has stated in countless documents (both from the Holy See and the various councils of bishops, etc.), that homosexuality as a sexual orientation, in itself, is not a sin. It is the sexual acting out of this tendency by the act of sodomy or other forms of unnatural sex that is sinful in itself. There is nothing to keep a homosexual from becoming eminently holy. Undoubtedly, of the thousands of saints, many were homosexuals, but they were either chaste or repentant homosexuals.

     The Church would also agree that God's love for the sinner is unconditional, but the application of his merciful love in granting forgiveness is not unconditional when actual sin has been committed, for God's word insists on a condition: "They should repent and turn to God and do things that would show they had repented" (Acts 26:20).

     The Church would not agree that we should downplay emphasis on sin--once it is established that the homosexual act is a sin in itself-for "everyone who sins breaks the law" (I John 3:4). Nor would the Church agree that the devil's frequent involvement in sin should be downplayed, because "the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him" (IPet. 5:8-9). To disregard the devil's involvement in human life would be to disregard the counter involvement of Christ himself, since "the very reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's works" (I John 3:8).

The Church has not only condemned "gay-bashing," but has also consistently affirmed that gays have the same human and civil rights as others. However, these sacred rights may be curtailed when the common welfare or the rights or safety of others is imperiled, just as anyone's civil rights may be curtailed under the same conditions.

Thus, a dangerous psychotic or one under drug influence, or anyone with a contagious disease may be justly confined, limiting the exercise of their rights. Likewise, homosexual couples may be justly prevented from adopting a child, for they would thus deprive the child of a normal family life. Gays who openly advocate or encourage a gay lifestyle should be prevented from teaching school children that pernicious evil, and prevented from exerting such influence on scout troops, etc. Thus, gay rights are as all-embracing as anyone's rights, but also are to be restricted-as anyone's rights-when they endanger the rights of others.

     The Church follows Paul's biblical command to "be prepared in season and out of season to correct, rebuke and encourage with great patience and careful instruction, for the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires (lusts ) they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from truth" (II Tim. 4:2-4). This was Mary's lament in her Medjugorje apparitions, and in other of her many recent apparitions where it is claimed that she said that the three types of sin that most offend God today are abortion, child abuse and the practice (not inclination) of homosexuality.

     Are there truly "good" gay people? Of course. I know many of them. Many are heroically living a chaste life of prayerful celibacy, many living alone, and a few in prayerful and chaste companionship. I also know many sincere gay people living asexually active gay lifestyle while ignorant of, or unconvinced of, the objective sin involved.

     This brings up another distinction that the inquiring letter neglected to take notice of (one that I explain in my book, "Glad You Asked)." As St. Thomas Aquinas and other great theologians teach, there is a distinction between the objective moral norm (God's law) and the subjective norm (conscience). A person may be sinning objectively, violating God's law, and yet be innocent subjectively by reason of an unformed or malformed but sincere conscience.

   This objectively sinful but subjectively innocent state is found among some homosexuals, abortionists, euthanasianists, cannibals, artificial birth-controllers, etc. Even many prostitutes sincerely regard their lifestyle as good, because they support their children by prostitution. Through ignorance of morality or of God's law, such persons have a retarded or unrefined conscience. St. Paul says the conscience of such persons (depending on the presence or absence of malice), can either "accuse them or excuse them. ..God will judge men's secret thoughts" in this regard" (Rom. 2:15-16).

     Meanwhile, the Church's task of evangelization includes its obligation of enlightening people by moral teachings, so that the subjective non--conscience-will conform to the objective non-God's law: "Those who sin are to be rebuked publicly, so that others may take warning" (I Tim. 5:20). "Rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith" (Titus 1:13).

     Notice how Paul presents objective moral truth to homosexuals to correct their subjective moral blindness ("their foolish hearts were darkened"): "In sexual impurity they degraded their bodies with one another. ..exchanging natural relations for unnatural ones. ..Men abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves (in their bodies) the due penalty for their perversion" (Rom. 1:21-27). (Some might conjecture that this "due penalty" in their bodies hints at threatened venereal disease;  today that is mainly AIDS, which originated among gays and,  through bisexuals, infected straight people-abetted by another sin,  drug abuse with infected needles.)

     Among the many scriptural condemnations of the practice (not orientation) of homosexuality, the book of Leviticus calls it a detestable "abomination" (18:22), for which God required Moses to apply the death penalty (20:13) to teach the Israelites effectively that homosexual acts such as sodomy entail objective (intrinsic) evil.

     The Church keeps reminding us of the distinction between the homosexual orientation and the homosexual practice or act. The abnormal sexual orientation is itself not sinful, just as the abnormal disorder of an allergy or asthma is not sinful. Homosexual orientation may be regarded morally as simply a form of deep-seated and persistent temptation, not a sin, just as a heterosexual inclination to adultery  or fornication is a temptation, not a sin-unless the person succumbs to the temptation. Just as a heterosexual person must avoid sins of fornication and adultery, so also a homosexual must avoid the sin of sodomy.

     This comparison, however, may seem to be weak. Many homosexuals (not bisexuals) regard a normal marriage relationship as repulsive, or at least totally unfulfilling. This means that to remain chaste, a gay person must remain sexually non-active, obliged to endure life-long sexual deprivation, possibly feeling "cheated" of sexual fulfillment in a kind of "forced" celibacy (unlike the voluntary celibacy of a priest or religious who finds fulfillment living a consecrated celibate life).

     But is involuntary celibacy or chastity always an unjust imposition by God or by the Church? Countless straight people are subject to the same involuntary ("forced") and often life-long sexual deprivation that is morally required of every gay person. For instance, there are many paraplegics or sexually impotent persons or low sex-drive individuals who feel "cheated" of sexual fulfillment in life. Even many married persons suffer the same "forced" sexual deprivation because their spouse is frigid or impotent, or sexually uncooperative, or chronically ill, or drunk, or emotionally repulsive, or venereally infected, etc. Also sexually deprived are countless prisoners, hostages, institutionalized inmates or patients, family-separated military personnel,  refugees, etc.-not to mention the millions of single persons who have never found a suitable spouse. If unhealed, a celibate, chaste gay  person requires no more sexual self-control than is required of  these countless millions of variously deprived straight persons.

     Of the many kinds of deprivation of normal sex, Jesus spoke of only three: "eunuchs (homosexuals) born that way," those castrated, and those choosing celibacy "for the sake of the kingdom" (Matt.19:12).

A life of freely chosen celibacy (see I Cor. 7:38.) has its special reward from God (Luke 18:29). But even involuntary celibacy is a cross that if accepted as God's will (1 Pet. 4:2 and 19), is rewarded by God. "It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good (e.g. obeying God's sex laws) than to suffer (punishment) for doing evil" (3:17).

    But what about the possibility of reversing this sexual preference? In my book, "Healing Your Family Tree," I point out that homosexuals can be cured of this "ego-distonic personality disorder ," even if it is proven to be genetic in origin. There are books on curing gays, retreat forms of therapy, psychiatric specialists in the field of orientation reversal, and at least 25 organizations, like "Exodus International," etc. founded by ex-gays, that have lead countless gays to" a new identity through Jesus. " The Catholic group of gays called COURAGE (not to be confused with morally unacceptable group of Catholics called DIGNITY ) offers tremendous help and support for Catholic homosexuals. In my own pastoral experience, almost all of those I have seen cured were ones who submitted with great humility to a deliverance prayer (not full-blown exorcism), in order to be delivered from a spirit of homosexuality. The book explains the scriptural basis for what is often an "inherited" bondage derived from ancestral sin that sometimes leaves one open to demonic intervention (not possession), which is often at the root of this disorder .

     But with or without the use of a deliverance ministry, no homosexual can be cured of this disorder without three pre-conditions: First, he or she must admit that the homosexual act is a perversion and totally "unnatural," as Paul explicitly states in several places in the first chapter of Romans. The act may seem "natural" to the individual but it must be recognized as "unnatural," i.e. not according to nature, in itself. To most people this is obvious from the most elementary study of male/female anatomy and physiology. But amazingly, the "denial syndrome" leads many gays to deny this element of unnaturalness in the homosexual act itself.

     Second, the gay person must admit that any homosexual act in itself is intrinsically immoral. There are several forms of unnatural sexual sin among gays and lesbians (Rom. 1 :26), the most common form of which is the sin of sodomy, detestable to God. In the Bible, this sin is often condemned, and is described as "the sexual immorality and perversion of Sodom and Gomorrah punished by God" (Jude, verse 7). The immorality of the act, just as its unnaturalness, is obstinately denied by many gays, so "God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done II (Rom.1 :28). 

At this point the devil freezes the person's thinking in this distorted understanding of sexual morality. "To suit their own lusts. ..they will turn their ears away from the truth" (II Tim. 4: Thus, the second obstacle to healing is lodged in place.

     Thirdly-and this is the biggest obstacle to a cure of the disorder-the gay person must want to become heterosexual-a nessrarity among gays. With no sincere desire for normalcy, healing of the sexual preference is impossible. However, even in the cases where this third condition (desire for normalcy) is not fulfilled, still the gay person is always free to practice chastity. (Almost every diocese has pastoral resources to support gays in this endeavor.) .Chastity is not impossible, if one is careful to avoid "proximate occasions of sin II of thought, word or deed, and exercises a prayerful reliance on Jesus for the supportive grace of God. Any gay person that cooperates with God's grace will know the truth of Paul's words: "I can do everything in him who gives me strength" (Phil. 4:13).

     I'm sure that God has a special love for gays and lesbians that sincerely struggle with their disorder; their heroic efforts are most pleasing to him. Those sincere efforts probably carry a great intercessory power to draw down grace from God, not just for themselves but also for their fellow gays struggling to live a chaste life. When they experience the special reward God has reserved for those who faithfully strive to avoid sin and live chastely, these precious ones will praise God for all eternity, aware that their struggle was worth the eternal reward-a thousand million times over!


Learning can do much good, it is true; but however much it may accomplish, experience teaches us, in the present as in the past, that moral evils never yield to any other force than the grace of God. A learned man may enlighten the minds of his fellow men, and expel their darkness and errors, but unless the grace of God touch their hearts, they will not embrace the truth.

Demise of DOMA: Pathway to ‘Gay Marriage’

Demise of DOMA: Pathway to ‘Gay Marriage’

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was signed into law by President William Clinton on September 21, 1996. DOMA was a response to the State of Hawaii’s near attempt to legalize gay marriage in 1993. In order to stop this unpopular and threatening trend, DOMA clearly defined marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife. Moreover, the law defended traditional marriage by asserting that each state had the right to refuse to recognize same sex marriage by any other state, and affirmed that the federal government would NOT recognize gay marriage, even if individual states choose to do so.

As just noted, the movement toward the legalization of gay marriage was markedly unpopular when DOMA was signed into law. This was evident by how quickly and overwhelmingly DOMA became the law of the land. DOMA was presented to the House of Representatives as H.R. 3396 on May 7, 1996. Two months later, on July 12 of this same year, DOMA passed through the House, 342 for and 67 against it (eighty percent of the House opposed gay marriage). On September 10, the Senate overwhelmingly supported DOMA, with 85 yeas and 14 nays opposing it (Eighty four percent of the Senate opposed gay marriage). Only eleven days later, the Act was signed into law by President Clinton.

While DOMA temporarily curbed the gay marriage movement, much has changed since then. The most recent figures show a thunderously increasing support for the legalization of gay marriage. According to the March 20, 2013 Pew Research report (Gay Marriage: Key Points from Pew Research), 49% of the population are now in favor of gay marriage and 48% are opposed to it. These results show a significant reversal over the past decade. In 2001, the data showed that 57% opposed gay marriage and only 35% supported it! Moreover, in 2001 none of the States had legalized same sex marriage. Massachusetts was the first state to break this barrier, legalizing same sex marriage on May 17, 2004, only nine years ago. Since this time, eight other States plus the District of Columbia have followed Massachusetts in granting gay couples the “right” to marry (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington).

Further fuel to the fire was added by the Obama Administration (February 2011) when they declared that they believed that DOMA was unconstitutional. In light of this, the Administration refused to defend the law in court. Moreover, President Obama publicly declared his support for the legalization of gay marriage on May 9, 2012. This is without precedent. In 2008, Obama opposed gay marriage. He claimed that his thinking has “evolved” since then and he now views gay marriage differently. Sadly, his political cohorts, such as Bill Clinton who initially supported and signed DOMA into law, have also “evolved” and become more enlightened over the past decade and a half. DOMA’s life on this planet could be a short one. In fact, oral arguments on the constitutionality of DOMA, as of March 26 of this year, are now being argued before the Supreme Court.

One thing is for sure. The legalization of gay marriage will have lethal consequences for us and the generations to come. Gay marriage strikes at the heart of the primary purpose of marriage, which is the generation, nurturing, and education of children. The begetting of offspring by a married man and a woman, as God intended, is the foundation upon which family life is built and the bedrock of a healthy, vibrant, and productive society. Legislation which weakens rather than strengthens traditional marriage will eventually lead, not only to the desolation of families, but to the destruction of society itself. God will not be mocked. Those great nations who have ignored His teachings have crumbled throughout the course of human history. The point of the preceding is that marriage between a man and woman is what God intended. This is why they were created with anatomical differences, complementing each other, and this is why He elevated marriage to the sacramental state, providing special graces to those who chose this vocation. God never taught that marriage between same sex couples was permissible. In fact, He specifically condemned sodomy and homosexual acts as “sins that cry to heaven for vengeance” — sins of impurity against nature that could NEVER be approved of by His Church (Corinthians 6: 9-10; Genesis19:1-29; Romans1:24-27; Cf. 

Obviously our Lord would not have supported legislation permitting gay marriage or same sex civil unions. In fact, He would have vociferously condemned the notion that gay marriage was a civil right and those who supported this.

In order to get sympathy for their position, gays will trumpet the message that their same sex attraction is genetically caused. Like those who inherit brown or blue eyes, gays will contend that homosexuality is a fixed trait. In other words, they “were born that way” and there is nothing that can be done to change this. However, the evidence indicates otherwise. There is no gay gene or common grouping of such that are responsible for one’s sexual orientation. Rather, a combination of environmental, psychological, social, and cultural factors have been identified as potential causes of homosexuality.

Even though no specific homosexual gene or genetic combination has been discovered, many gays contend that they have inherited a “genetic predisposition,” causing them to be attracted to same sex persons. Again, they will insist that they “were born that way“ and their homosexuality is a natural outgrowth of this inherited predisposition. However, a fixed genetic trait such as eye, hair, or skin color is not the same as an inherited genetic predisposition. We have no control over the former. The latter, on the other hand, differs in this regard. An individual, who is attracted to same sex persons, can stay away from persons and situations, which are “ occasions of sin.” Moreover, he can learn to control his thoughts and behavior when the temptation to engage in homosexual activity arises. This does not mean that exercising such control will be easy, especially if this problem is of a long standing nature. However, with much effort, prayer, and perseverance change is possible. The “genetically predisposed” sufferer can choose to avoid engaging in homosexual thoughts and activity. He or she can seek spiritual and professional help in order to change and better cope with their same sex attraction. Choice, not predetermination, is the critical point here. The genetically predisposed person can choose to act in such a way that he or she does not become the victim of a sensual attraction, leading to mortally sinful behavior. (See the note at the end of this piece for more on the “genetic predisposition.”)

In conclusion, those who support gay marriage will contend that this is a civil rights rather than a moral issue. However, natural law and the laws of God’s Church would dictate otherwise. If gay marriage becomes the law of the land, it will lead to the perversion of this sacrament and the loss of those graces attached to the marital state, given to us by Jesus Christ. This will eventually lead to the weakening of the family and the destruction of the society upon which it is founded.

The politicians will pretend that they have agonized over this issue and claim that they have become more enlightened, leading to a change in their thinking. They will insist that they want to do the right thing. But as we have observed, this is hardly the case.

Rather, they waffle from one position to the other depending upon on the way that the political wind is blowing. The most recent poll Pew Research data (March 13-17, 2013) on Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters’ response to the question: should same sex couples have the same rights as heterosexual couples? would support this contention. The current figures show that 74% of the Democrats, 49% of the Republicans, and 74% of the Independent voters agreed that gay and heterosexual couples should have the same rights. As noted previously the House and Senate overwhelmingly (80+ %) opposed gay marriage when DOMA was signed into law seventeen years ago. What a difference one decade has made!

The current crop of politicians, particularly our Catholic politicians who should know better, are a sad lot. For them, getting elected is what is important. If this means violating natural law and God’s commandments, so be it. Deep down inside, I suspect that the over-riding majority of our politicians and legislators know that gay marriage is an abomination and makes no sense from both a moral and practical perspective. Common sense would dictate that. Unfortunately common sense is not so common, especially when it comes to politics. With the guillotining of DOMA, the legalization of gay marriage is not only likely to accelerate, but it could soon become the law of the land. Those who refuse to comply with it and openly oppose such a law may be persecuted more vehemently than ever. God give us the grace to face such adversity, should it arise. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph — the Holy Family upon which society is founded — pray for us and provide us with the strength to follow Your example.

 * * * * * * * * * * * *

Note on “Genetic Predisposition”: In this article, I used the term “genetic predisposition” toward homosexuality. For the purpose of clarification, I would like to explain what I meant by this term. Let me preface my remarks by stating that I am not a geneticist. However, in my perusal of the literature, two points were evident. First, the various theories that posit a genetic (or epigenetic) predetermination toward homosexuality are scientifically unproven. And secondly, these theories are not in conformity with the fundamental truths of human nature. In light of the preceding, I rejected the notion that a specific gene or combination of genes were responsible for “fixing” one’s homosexual orientation at conception and compelling him or her to engage in a gay lifestyle thereafter. As a psychologist, my operative theory in this area is that certain men and women have a predisposition (a “potency” in philosophical terms) toward homosexuality. This potency might or might not be activated depending upon those environmental circumstances to which the individual becomes exposed.

The “genetic predisposition” of which I speak is a person’s inclination to engage in morally disordered actions when the potency, which I previously mentioned, becomes aroused or activated. For example, Michael is a young man whose family members are afflicted with obesity. This runs in Michael’s family. With such an inherited predisposition, Michael is strongly attracted to food and its consumption. He is constantly fixated on food and experiences gluttonous inclinations, which are most tempting indeed. Monitoring and controlling his food intake will be an ongoing problem for Michael, given his “genetic predisposition.” Raymond, on the other hand, has no difficulty with controlling his food intake or with gluttony. However, the members of Raymond’s family tend to behave violently when stressed. Raymond, like his family members, has a low frustration tolerance. As a result, he can quickly become so violent that he poses a danger to others and could inflict injury or even death upon them. Raymond’s inclination to act violently and the control of his temper may be an ongoing problem, throughout the course of his life, given his “genetic predisposition.”

It is important to note that people and the vices to which they become attracted differ. The old saying that “one man’s meat is another man’s poison” applies here. If someone lacks the particular “predisposition” for a certain vice, it will hold little or no attraction to him. However, if he inherits this predisposition, he could — as if by temperament — easily fall into that sin.

There is also the related question as to what occurs when someone’s predisposition becomes “set off” so to speak. The person’s inclination, which was previously latent and now triggered, will first come to the forefront in the form of temptations. If these temptations are then consented to, they become actual sins. We are all born heterosexual, since God gave us a certain complement of male and female biological traits at conception. If one has a predisposition toward homosexuality, this potency could become activated by one’s own sins against purity, in which he freely chooses to engage. It should be noted that suffering from some sort of trauma: mental or physical abuse, premature exposure to sexual matters, pornography, rape, etc., might also trigger someone’s “predisposition.” In my opinion, even bad parenting habits and parental role dysfunction (all too common today) can have a profound influence in leading predisposed young men to embrace homosexuality. Again, if the temptations are freely consented to, the behavior and thoughts become actual sins. The repetition of these becomes more habitual and deeply integrated into one’s personality.

The theory that I accept does not reject the culpability for sin, nor does it deny the freedom of the human will. Still less does it advance the notion that homosexuals are “born this way.”

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Two kinds of Liberalism



Philosophy and theology teach that there are two kinds of atheism, doctrinal or speculative, and practical. The first consists in an open and direct denial of the existence of God; the second consists in acting and living without denying the existence of (50) God, but yet as if He did not really exist. Those who profess the first are called theoretical or doctrinal atheists; those who live according to the second, practical atheists: the latter are the more numerous. 

It is the same with Liberalism and Liberals. There are theoretical and practical Liberals. The first are the dogmatizers of the sect philosophers, the professors, the controversialists, the journalists. They teach Liberalism in books, in discourses, in articles, by argument or by authority, in conformity with a rationalistic criterion in disguised or open opposition to the criterion of the divine and supernatural revelation of Jesus Christ. 

Practical Liberalists are by far in the greater majority. Like a flock of sheep, with closed eyes, they follow their leaders. They know nothing in truth of principles and systems, and, did they perceive the perversity of their instructors, would perhaps detest them. But, deceived by a false cry or shibboleth, they troop docilely after their false guides. They are none the less the hands that act, while the theorists are the heads that direct. Without them, Liberalism would never pass beyond the narrow bounds of speculation. It is the practical Liberalists that give it life and exterior movement. They constitute the first (51) matter of Liberalism, disposed to take any form, ready for any folly or absurdity proposed by the leaders. 

Amongst Catholic Liberals many of them go to Mass, even make novenas, and yet when they come in contact with the world lead the lives of practical Liberals. They make it a rule "to live up to the times," as they call it. The Church they believe to be somewhat outofdate, an old fogy; that she is held back by a certain set of reactionaries, Ultramontane; but they have hopes that she will in the course of time catch up with the modern spirit of progress, of which they are the van. The barnacles of medievalism still encumber the bark of Peter, but time, they believe, will remedy this. The straw of medieval philosophy and theology they hope before long to thrash out by the introduction of the modern spirit into her schools. Then will a new theology be developed more in conformity with the needs of the times, more in harmony with the modern spirit which makes such large demands upon our "intellectual liberty." So they believe (or imagine they believe) that all is well. Is their responsibility before God, therefore, lessened? Assuredly not. They sin directly in the light of faith. They are less excusable than those Liberals who have never been within the pale of the Church. In short they sin with their eyes open. 

Amongst Liberals we must not forget to include those who manage to evade any direct exposition or expression of the Liberal theory, but who never the less obliquely sustain it in their daily practice by writing and orating after the Liberal method, but recommending Liberal books and men, measuring and appreciating everything according to the Liberal criterion, and manifesting on every occasion that offers, an intense hatred for anything that tends to discredit or weaken their beloved Liberalism. Such is the conduct of those prudent journalists, whom it is difficult to apprehend in the flagrant advocacy of any proposition concretely Liberal, but who nevertheless in what they say and in what they do not say, never cease to labor for the propagation of this cunning heresy. Of all Liberal reptiles, these are the most venomous.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Magisterial Irresonsibilty

Luis Francisco Cardinal ­Ladaria Ferrer of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has announced to the bishops Pope Francis’s approval of new material addressing capital punishment in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (number 2267). The inserted passage notes “an increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes,” “a new understanding . . . of the significance of penal sanctions,” and “more effective systems of detention.” It concludes, “Consequently, the Church teaches, in the light of the Gospel, that ‘the death penalty is inadmissible because it is an attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person’, and she works with determination for its abolition worldwide.” This addition to the Catechismis widely either heralded or attacked as a major doctrinal departure, an abrogation of the Church’s teaching of two millennia that the death penalty is an essentially just penalty. Yet this claim of essential doctrinal change is gravely misleading.

First, it is an absolute norm of Catholic doctrinal interpretation that magisterial documents be read in a collegial fashion. It is assumed that the document belongs to the Church and that the entirety of the Church’s prior teaching and tradition enters into its proper understanding. For this reason alone, the recent statement cannot be a doctrinal “break” or “rupture.” The word for doctrinal breaks is heresy. The Church has taught for two millennia that the death penalty is essentially valid. This is taught in Sacred Scripture, and has been affirmed by popes, numerous catechisms, the consensus of the Fathers of the Church, and the teaching of St. Thomas ­Aquinas. If this teaching is erroneous, then the whole of the ordinary universal magisterium of the Church—­especially its moral magisterium—is merely a contingent effect of ecclesial will. The nihilistic voluntarism of such a view is incompatible with Catholic faith.

Second, the new teaching about “inadmissibility” is expressly predicated on a composite prudential antecedent judgment (indeed, “inadmissibility” is a legal and prudential term). Two of the three considerations offered as supporting the conclusion of inadmissibility are in the prudential order (judgments about the significance of penal sanctions and about the effectiveness of criminal detention systems). Accordingly, the conclusion is predicated on prudential judgments that are susceptible to falsification. Thus, however strong the language of the conclusion, it can specify only prudentially. The conclusion about the inadmissibility of capital punishment in today’s circumstances is an instance of the fourth (and weakest) form of church teaching, prudential admonitions that command the attention of the faithful, but for which believers who conscientiously disagree are never denied communion with the Church.

A third reason why the recently inserted matter does not constitute a break with the prior tradition is that nothing in the Catechism is elevated in authority merely by being included in the Catechism. In this instance, the authority of the insertion arises from the traditional teaching of the essential legitimacy of the penalty and the qualifying, prudential admonitions of Pope John Paul II in Evangelium VitaeIndeed, John Paul II refused ever to teach that the death penalty is essentially evil, offering only prudential grounds for its restricted use. In the list of intrinsically evil acts in Evangelium Vitae, the death penalty is not to be found. If, as Cardinal Ladaria suggests in his August 1, 2018, letter to the bishops announcing the addition to the Catechism, the new teaching is a development of John Paul II’s actual magisterial teaching—“following the footsteps of the teaching of John Paul II” (cf. paragraph 7)—it must be a prudential development; otherwise, it would contradict, not develop, this teaching. The stronger rhetoric regarding the application of the penalty cannot remove this teaching from the realm of prudential admonition susceptible to falsification.

For these reasons, the inserted material in number 2267 of the Catechism is not and cannot constitute a doctrinal rupture. However, this does not mean one ought to be unreservedly happy about it. There are four reasons for viewing this revision critically and with measured dismay.

The first concerns the “dignitarian” ­premise: the assertion that we now understand human dignity better than did earlier epochs of the Church, especially insofar as we now know that felons retain human dignity despite their crimes. But the Church has always affirmed, and has never denied, that the felon executed for a grave crime possesses human dignity, the imago dei ordered to, and specified by, noble goods in nature and grace. The Church has stipulated only that those engaging in gravely sinful action do not enjoy the further dignity of actual virtue and grace (the imago gratiae or imago Christi), which of course also obtains for others whose grave transgressions in the moral order do not rise to the level of legal felony. Nevertheless, the possibility of repentance—a possibility rooted in the dignity of the felon—has always been affirmed. In fact, the possibility of repentance is rooted in the first human dignity: the spiritual nature of the rational soul shared by all. This spiritual nature makes it possible for a felon to suffer the penalty in a way meritorious of salvation, just as any sinner can enter into suffering in a fashion that purifies his soul.

The Church sends a priest to the condemned felon, not merely a gravedigger, precisely because the felon possesses human dignity and remains a potential subject of sanctifying grace. Further, human dignity has long served as the ground for justifying the penalty. In the tradition, capital punishment is understood as one of the penalties that may be due to a rational agent who uses his freedom to commit the severest crimes. The Church has also held that the human dignity of the innocent merits the most rigorous defense, potentially including punishment by death for those who wrongfully assail the human dignity of others.

Given these considerations, the inserted claim about “increasing awareness that the dignity of the person is not lost even after the commission of very serious crimes” seems both parochial and condescending with respect to prior Catholic teaching. There is no evidence that the Church ever has denied the dignity that felons possess by reason of being created in the image and likeness of God. Some read Thomas’s analysis of felons falling into the servitude of the beasts as a denial of human dignity, but this is a misreading. Thomas refers to the further dignity in virtue and grace toward which the imago dei is ordered. When we fall from this dignity (as do all who gravely sin), we lose the higher dignity to which we are called, as distinct from the inceptive dignity of nature with which we are born. In this sense, criminals, like other sinners, fall into the servitude of the beasts and become worse than beasts: because beasts, lacking the imago dei, are not capable of sin.

Thus it is untrue that the Church has not properly understood human dignity until the modern period. At various times individuals have adopted dehumanizing views of murderers and perpetrators of other grave crimes, but it is both historically and doctrinally false to suggest that the Church has in the past failed to understand that unrepentant felons retain their natural human dignity.

The truth of the matter is that there are differences in sentiment regarding criminal penalties in different historical epochs, differences that have little to do with essential church teaching. We see this in the refinement of sentiment that limits vulgar display of civil penalties today. We rightly no longer approve of treating the public aspect of punishment as though it were a species of “carnival event” or merely a public spectacle. But this is not itself a ground, nor has the Church ever taught it to be one, for denying the essential validity of grave penalties, including the death penalty. Nor are modern times bereft of public indulgence in obscene spectacles.

It is far from obvious that our times are characterized by moral progress in affirming human dignity. Widespread complacence characterizes social attitudes toward the tragedy of abortion. We live in an age not quite sure that children deserve a mother and a father. Meanwhile, secular contemporaries are liable to claim superior sensitivity by reason of sentimental postures, including that of opposing the punishment of the guilty. That we today enjoy a sensibility more averse to vulgar displays of severe penalty does not imply that the Church did not understand human dignity in the past, any more than the tendency of some professed Catholics today to be indifferent to grave sins means that the Church does not understand their gravity. The Church must cope with the sensibilities of epochs, and frames her teachings with due regard for cultural conditions. But these considerations must not be misconstrued as foundational. Indeed, between the previous error of vulgar display of penalty and the modern error of incomprehension of its moral necessity, prior centuries arguably hold the advantage over our own.

In the Catholic tradition, it is the dignity of the human person—not its denial—that undergirds the legitimacy of capital punishment. Only a free, spiritual creature can merit penalty when guilty of grave offense. Only a free, spiritual creature is capable of suffering the death penalty without failing of his final end, because the human spirit is susceptible of conversion. It is this dignity of the human person that guarantees that no earthly suffering, including the need to suffer death as a penalty for grave crime, can of itself prevent anyone from attaining the highest good of union with God. Human dignity also merits the sternest protective legal sanctions, potentially including the death penalty. Genesis 9:6 identifies the imago dei as the very reason for the penalty: “Whosoever shall shed man’s blood, his blood shall be shed: for man was made to the image of God.”

A second, ecclesial reason why a lover of the Church cannot simply celebrate this revision of the Catechism is that it is being presented and publicized in a misleading way. Given its widespread reception as abrogating prior teaching, the prudential character of this small insertion in the Catechism ought to be made clear. Failure to do so invites, and causes, confusion and error. The lowest level of ­doctrine—prudential admonition—lacks the central and defining nature of the higher tiers of Catholic teaching. Not to make clear the prudential character of the insertion escalates the gravity of the question, and the danger of needless division, beyond the immediate matter of the death penalty.

A third reason why this revision of the Catechism is objectively problematic is that the language of the conclusion about the death penalty appears violent and excessive. Taken by itself, it suggests that the penalty is essentially unjust. I have constructed the argument showing that the prudential antecedents make this conclusion impossible. But this nuanced characterization of the teaching is easily overwhelmed by the excessive force of the concluding language of the statement. To speak of the death penalty as an “attack on the inviolability and dignity of the person”—taken in itself and apart from its prudential antecedents—suggests a wholesale break with tradition. There is an ultra vires excess in this formulation that is likely to be misunderstood and assimilated wholly to secular humanitarianism. The rhetoric of the conclusion, if predicated on the prudential reasons given, ought to be prudential. But the language used does not sound prudential and is inordinate. This exacerbates the confusion and is a grave defect. It ought to be corrected.

A fourth and final reservation regarding the catechetical insert is that in all frankness, the prudential counsel it asserts seems at best equivocal. The claim that new discoveries about the nature of penal sanctions and new methods of detention do away with further questions concerning the protection of society from the wicked, or the deterrence of crime (to say nothing of changing the essential justice of the death penalty itself), is false. There are many murders performed in prison by murderers who have been given life sentences. Clearly, the claim that the method of their detention—even in North America—renders this impossible is empirically false. The issue of deterrence is also complex and not one-sided. The Catholic tradition is not Kantian: There may be several penalties that are proportionately and essentially just, and further questions of their relation to the common good may make one preferable over others. Both rehabilitation and deterrence are such medicinal considerations beyond just retributive proportion. Finally, it is not clear that dignity is invariably better served by withholding the death penalty. A rational creature may merit a penalty that accordingly honors rather than impugns his rational dignity, and the foreknown proximity of death is not infrequently an occasion for the grace of conversion.

These are reasons why many believing Catholics could not and did not concur with John Paul II’s prudence on this matter when he spelled it out in Evangelium Vitae and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For his part, John Paul II understood that they had every right as Catholics to their judgment in this matter. The revision to the Catechism more forcefully asserts this prudential counsel and thus does not break with tradition. Nevertheless, as a universal proposition, it does not seem to be unequivocally good counsel.

For secularized populations in the West, the death penalty may appear to encourage final acts of despair rather than repentance. For a society that has no living belief in the immortal soul, capital punishment may seem a pitiless assault on the only hope we have, which is earthly life. Yet the sentimentalism lurking behind this reasoning invites perverse conclusions. Why shouldn’t today’s “increasing awareness” of human dignity lead to the conclusion that all should be given greater control over our deaths so that we suffer from less fear and despair at the end? If death, rather than sin and the rejection of God, becomes the greatest threat to human dignity, then someone might judge there to be a prudential need to permit euthanasia, the benevolent subjugation of death to human autonomy. No matter how much better this might make someone feel about approaching death, it would not be just. Similarly, it is not just to derogate the common good by excluding capital punishment in circumstances where the legitimate ends of criminal penalty are not otherwise prudentially achievable.

The presence of better technologies of detention, along with other concerns, doubtless provides reasons for a more sparing use of the death penalty. But it does not seem sufficient to ground the contingently universal prudential proposition now urged on us. Further, it is legislatures and courts who must judge prudential factors. A one-size-fits-all prudence is simul­taneously subversive of prudence and indifferent to the real grace of state bestowed by providence on those called to assess the prudential factors.

The universality implied in the rhetoric of the catechetical revision is not and cannot be essential and normative; it can only be prudential and contingent. In my judgment, the evidence is not unequivocally supportive even of the claim to contingent universality. The argument for it does not seem intellectually credible. However, a normative, necessary, and essential claim—the kind suggested by the inordinate concluding language of the catechetical insert—is more hazardous than questionable counsel. Taken by itself (apart from its prudential grounds), it leads to conclusions contrary to Scripture, contrary to tradition, contrary to the teachings of all the popes until the present, and contrary to the unanimous consensus of the Fathers, whose profound Christian aversion to bloody punishment—man was not created for death!—did not keep them from affirming the essential justice of the penalty.

If a pontiff were to claim an independent authority to suppress Scripture, tradition, and defined doctrine—as though one did not need to be a Catholic believer in order to be pope, and Christ founded the papacy to undo his teaching—we would be faced with an antipope controversy arising from papal schism and heresy. That this situation is possible in a pope is proven by the example of Honorius. He may not have been a formal heretic, but there is no doubt that he issued heretical judgments and was condemned for it. I do not believe that the present pontiff intends to claim that the papacy has a power of doctrinal abrogation, which would be an utterly strange claim. Can God be a trinity one day, and not a trinity the next, or adultery a sin one day, and a good act the next, because a pope has decided to abrogate teaching? The thing is absurd on its face. The papacy serves Scripture and tradition.

In the matter of capital punishment, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith clearly evinces concern with continuity. The new matter added to the Catechism is a prudential admonition expressed more strongly than has been done before, but still at the lowest level of doctrine, that of prudential admonition. Nonetheless, concern for continuity is not necessarily achievement of continuity. The needless impugning of the Church’s past understanding of punishment and human dignity, the failure of the CDF to correct the widespread misportrayal of the statement as a condemnation of the penalty as such, and the excessive force and violence in the language of the conclusion—all this is unsettling and ominous. These aspects of the statement and its promulgation are worrisome insofar as they indicate the ease with which the constant teaching of the Church may come to be viewed not as a source of intelligible richness, but as a dead weight of history from which somehow, through a great inversion, the Church is supposed to “liberate” us.

Today, many outside the Church seem at ease with the subordination of the Catholic tradition in the service of wholly secularist categories. It does not aid the pastoral mission of the Church when those responsible for handing on this tradition seem to join in the dismantling of their own theological heritage. Presenting a prudential inflection of teaching as a species of major “doctrinal development” (as though it were indeed abrogation) foments needless division inside the Church. For the earnest believer, the derogation of the doctrinal patrimony of the Church on this matter—as though Scripture, tradition, the consensus of the Fathers, the teaching of Aquinas, and the teaching of all papacies up to the present had been swept away—is in its way as saddening as is the derogation of spiritual and moral integrity in the case of Theodore McCarrick.

Indeed, the losses of doctrinal and moral light are essentially linked: “But if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” (Matt. 6:23). The “eye” of the soul is the mind. To illustrate: Many contemporary clerics seem incapable even of naming the genera of the sins recently addressed by the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report detailing its investigation of priestly abuse. These are preponderantly but not exclusively sins of sacrilegious homosexual vice (performed by consecrated persons), of vicious and primarily homosexual rape, and in some cases adding to the evil of rape a horrifically inverted use of Catholic sacramentals to harm the innocent. The protection of such grave evil is not “clericalism,” but vicious contempt for justice and for the absolute norms of Catholic life. In a time of widespread blindness toward the truth—extending far beyond the abuse crisis—even the most marginal or accidental suggestion of abrogating the Church’s two-millennia-old moral doctrine in an ecclesial document is genuinely saddening. Calling things by their right names finally requires an understanding of the natural law and of revelation: Everything is what it is and not another thing. 

Steven A. Long is professor of theology at Ave Maria University.