All’s Fair in Love and War… and Judicial Appointments

Back in the mid-2000s, when I was just a teen, I remember being righteously indignant about the use of the filibuster to block judicial nominees like Miguel Estrada and Janice Rogers Brown. At the time, it was just so obviously ‘wrong’ and ‘unfair’ to deny Bush’s nominees an up-or-down vote.

That was from 2003-06, when there was an R president and R Senate majority. Since then, we’ve had an R president and D Senate from 2007-08, a D president and D Senate from 2009-14, and a D president and R Senate from 2015-present. Living through all the possible permutations has convinced me that there truly is no principled stance on the filibuster or judicial nominations.

Does anyone really believe that Democrats would have confirmed any Bush appointee to the Supreme Court had Ruth Bader Ginsburg suddenly died in February 2008? And does anyone really believe that Republicans would not have been totally outraged by that turn of events? When it comes to filibusters and judicial appointments, no honest man in politics exists.

Yes, Republicans absolutely should be trying to block any appointment until a new President is elected. And yes, Obama absolutely should try to get through an appointment by stealth in his final year. Neither side has any good reason for moral indignation about the other side’s posture. Fairly or unfairly, control of the Supreme Court has simply become too important for stupid little things like customary norms to matter anymore.

And those customary norms aren’t quite as normative as you’d think. Liberal blather to the contrary, leaving a seat vacant for a year is not unprecedented. Not even half a century ago, Democrats kept a seat vacant for thirteen months during 1969-1970. Go back further and you’ll find guerilla warfare over the Supreme Court that makes anything from the 20th century look tame.

Congress hated Andrew Johnson so much that it actually reduced the number of Supreme Court Justices to prevent him from filling either vacancy that happened during his term. Congress allowed a seat to remain unfilled for over two years during the Tyler and Polk administration. And in 1811, the entire Supreme Court term was actually cancelled when James Madison was unable to get someone appointed, and the Court lacked a quorum to do business.

There’s not only precedent for keeping seats open in truly jarring situations. There’s also precedent for filling them in truly jarring situations. In 1841, Justice Philip Barbour died exactly one week before William Henry Harrison’s inauguration. The outgoing president, Martin Van Buren, had been decisively rejected in the presidential election. He still forced through an appointment – a friendly Senate approved his choice of Peter Daniel less than 40 hours before Van Buren’s term ended.

You can be angry at either Obama or the Senate Republicans, but at least be honest enough to realize that there is no political morality here, and that you’d be doing the exact same thing if you were in their shoes.

Christians should not revere Martin Luther King

Discerning Christians have a duty to be very careful in choosing their heroes. We should not idolize anyone because it’s popular to do so, but examine the person’s life very carefully, keeping in mind the full counsel of scripture. A lot of good Christians, both liberal and conservative, admire Martin Luther King, and hold him up as a great man, worthy of reverence and imitation. A careful examination of King’s life convinces me that Christians should not hold him up as a great hero.

First and foremost, King was an unrepentant adulterer. While the full details are impossible to pin down, it’s beyond any reasonable doubt that he was not faithful to Coretta, and had many affairs. If you believe the testimony of his right hand man, Ralph Abernathy, he was even committing adultery on the day of his death in Memphis. Rather shamefully, the official guardians of King’s legacy fight tooth and nail against acknowledging any of this, and try to pretend nothing ever happened.

You might ask why his unfaithfulness matters. Shouldn’t we focus on his civil rights activism, and let his private life be private? Biblically, the answer must be no. Whether private or not, sexual immorality is considered something of utmost importance by God. The Old Testament prophets, when describing why God punished Israel and Judah with destruction, does mention injustice to the poor. But just as often, it mentions the people’s sexual immorality. God will not overlook a practice of unrepentant adultery just because you stand up for the poor and needy.

Adultery has a corrosive and horrific effect on any nation. It destroys families, cheapens marriage, annihilates trust, and quite often leads to outright murder in the form of abortion. Nearly half a century after King’s death, millions of American families lie broken, destroyed by the false idol of sexual freedom, and a rejection of Biblical sexual morality. King ministered at a critical time in history, when the Moynihan Report had just come out. He could have been a powerful voice for sexual fidelity, as he was against discrimination and poverty. But instead he indulged his lusts, and generation upon generation has been influenced by his negative example.

As bad as his adultery was, it was still not his worst sin. Even worse was his cynical and insincere use of Christ and the Christian religion to advance his goals. An examination of King’s theological writings proves beyond any doubt that he rejected basically every doctrine of orthodox Christianity. He did not believe in the virgin birth, the trinity, the atonement, the second coming, the divinity of Christ, or ever the resurrection. Jesus truly was no more special to him than Gandhi or Aristotle. Why then was he, of all things, a Baptist preacher? Simple – his goal was advancing civil rights, and being a preacher was the best platform to pursue that goal. Christianity was a mask to be worn for the masses, but true faith was not in his heart

Again, you may ask why this matters. His civil rights aims were commendable, so why care if his theology was off-base? The answer is because King was taking God’s name in vain. God was just a tool to him, a name to cynically be invoked in the promotion of his own agenda. A totally disposable means to an end. In the words of 2 Timothy 3:5, he was a man who “had the appearance of godliness while denying the power thereof.” This is not the glory, honor, and respect that God deserves. God detests the invocation of His name by hypocrites who actually believe in him. How much more does he detest its invocation by someone who does not.

There are many other reasons to criticize Martin Luther King. Most importantly, his theory of passive resistance deviates from sound Biblical teaching on submission to government rather blatantly. But putting aside any other reasons, the two outlined above are more than reason enough to not hold him out as a hero for Christians. When we revere him, we continue to send the toxic messages that it’s OK to cynically invoke a God you don’t believe in for your own purposes, and that private sexual immorality is really no grave evil at all. Those are pretty horrible messages for Christians to tacitly promote. When it comes to men of the faith to imitate and learn from, we can do better.

Purge Every Evil From Your Midst

As of this writing, there’s been a mindless and mildly horrifying frenzy against the Confederate flag for the past few weeks. Wal-Mart, Amazon, EBay and other businesses will no longer sell it, and a conscious effort is being made to even purge it from old media like “Dukes of Hazzard.” (I write this only because two or three months from now, all of this will be forgotten – new shiny outrages will have long since replaced it).

I can’t say I disagree with the the basic idea of denouncing the Confederate flag. It did fly for four years over a nation expressly dedicated to preserving a legal system which treated a large class of humans as mere chattel property. God sent ten plagues, including the death of all firstborns, on the nation of Egypt for an unjust slave system. Bearing this in mind, it’s a shame and a mystery that any Bible-minded Christian would have affection for the Confederacy (and don’t give me “the north was worse” nonsense. It’s perfectly possible for two sides in a conflict to both be evil in the eyes of God).

And in fact, I actually agree with the idea of totally purging the flag from our midst, as far as practicable. Symbols of evil, ungodliness, and hate should be destroyed. The most righteous in ancient Israel and Judah were the ones who destroyed the Ba’als and Asherah Poles. And it would indeed have been a shame if Golden Calves could be easily found for purchase in every goods trading post within God’s chosen nation. A frenzy to get rid of something like the Confederate flag is, Biblically speaking, a positive good.

The only reason I called it “mindless and mildly horrifying” is that it sprouted not from Biblical theology, but from the ever growing alternative religion of progressivism. In accordance with the stopped-clock principle, the progressives randomly happened to momentarily target something that’s actually evil. More often, America is not so lucky.

[Digression: I’m privately excited about the coming day when the stopped clock will again be right, and the American flag will be targeted. That flag flew over a land of ungodly slavery for 88 years rather than 4. It flew over a land born out of monstrous, bloody, and cruel rebellion against a good King and parliament in Britain. A land which happily committed genocide against Native Americans for centuries. A land that has indiscriminately engaged in wars which do not even arguably meet the Just War criteria. A land which has been working to abolish the family structure since the mid-1800s. And, of course, a land that’s given the legal blessing to the murder of close to 60 million babies. Yes, it will indeed be a good day when the American flag itself is finally targeted.]

The mob that’s going after the Confederate flag today has the wrong motives. And those wrong motives usually lead them to destroy righteous things rather than unrighteous things. But dang, we could sure learn from their zeal. What if Christians had that same kind of zeal today? What if we had an equally strong burning desire to purge every evil from America?

I’m not holding my breath. Yesterday, most Biblical minded Christians in America happily celebrated the Fourth of July, totally oblivious that the ‘principles’ of the Founding Fathers, which they claim to revere, are in fact little more than modern day progressivism in a more embryonic form. But a small remnant of believers are belatedly beginning to wake up, and there is no limit on the overruling power of our sovereign God.

So, the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage…

Not that anyone didn’t see it coming. Roe and Casey were soul-scarring monstrosities. Obergefell was just tragi-comic anticlimax.

None of the five opinions were really memorable or remarkable. Kennedy’s majority was a gushy morass of flowery words about “dignity” and “liberty.” The four dissents were pedestrian and uninspired: the Court is sloppy in its reasoning, the Court is legislating from the bench, the Court misconstrues the true nature of liberty, and the Court redefines marriage. Conspicuously absent from any of the opinions is a reference to the God of the Bible, and His creation of marriage. Sure, there are passing mentions of ‘tradition’ and ‘religion,’ and marriage is referred to as ‘sacred’ and ‘spiritual.’ But reading them, one would never know that it was one particular faith and set of scriptures which defined marriage in the west for centuries.

True marriage does not have Man at its center but God. A legal and social definition of marriage which lacks God’s Word as the final arbiter will always be an incomplete and false one. In America, marriage has been not about God, but about autonomous man for well over a century, dating at least as far back as the abolition of coverture. When coverture was destroyed, marriage was no longer about two truly becoming one, but about two entering into a mere loose contract on equal terms. Now, even in an intact marriage, there would be a cautious legal separation between husband and wife.

Things got much worse in the 20th century. Fornication and adultery became almost universal, and morally accepted. Gender roles and distinctions were utterly obliterated. Worst of all, the barbaric institution of no-fault divorce carpet-bombed millions of families into heartbreak and oblivion. Marriage, at least in the Biblical sense, has been dead for a long time, and our American fetish for “liberty” and “autonomy” was the murderer.

There is one reason, and one reason alone that gay marriage did not become legal nationwide until yesterday: homophobia. Once one grants fornication, divorce, and feminism, there isn’t a principled reason in the world to oppose gay rights. And yet, the church was mostly silent as marriage was gradually annihilated, before suddenly growing loud when men started wanting to marry other men. It’s not to hard to figure out what happened. As a general rule, people will always be most critical of whatever sins they’re not guilty of, and tolerant of whatever sins they are guilty of. Since most people in the church didn’t struggle with homosexuality, is was easy to rail against that one. But once you start talking about fornication, divorce, and gender roles, you hit sins that lots of the folks in the pews have struggles with.

Gay marriage was not decided yesterday in Obergefell, it was decided half a century ago when the church happily accepted all the legal changes which had rendered marriage all about human happiness, autonomy, and rebellion. Obergefell is but the long-delayed fruit of a philosophy which has been set in stone for a very long time. And that’s what made the four dissents so uninspiring. At heart, they all treated marriage as a human institution with a lust for autonomy at its core. Justice Alito perhaps deserves a bit of accolades for at least sketching a brief image of a more Biblical conception of marriage, but he too was ultimately too cowardly to go all the way, and call for marriage as God ordained it.

Whatever comes next legally will really not matter that much. Polygamy, incest, and bestiality are all just an indeterminate number of years away. But like gay marriage, they’ll only affect a small percentage of the population. At this point, a few dozen weirdos getting to legally marry their dogs would be the most trivial drop in the bucket. It does not even begin to compare to the evil ravages of abortion, divorce, and fornication – all of which have been commonplace for decades on end.

Hope all this puts the Supreme Court ruling in proper perspective.

Fraud of the Millennium: The Treasonous Magna Carta

When it comes to government in the English speaking world, just about everything tends to go back to the Magna Carta. It’s the fountainhead from which everything else springs. All of those great documents – the English Bill of Rights, the American Declaration of Independence, and the UN Declaration of Human Rights – all trace their lineage to Runnymede.

Having learned in the past few years that the American Revolution was utterly evil and rotten to the core – different from the French Revolution only in degree rather than kind – I began to wonder if the Magna Carta had a dark side as well. I wasn’t disappointed.

The usual narrative goes something like this: King John was terrifying tyrant who was destroying all the ancient rights of his people. But then, a brave and revolutionary group of barons stood up to the bully, and got him to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede. Said document laid the basis for the rule of law, due process, and all that jank. And western civilization has been building on the Magna Carta, and growing brighter, freer, and happier in the 800 years since.

First, a word about King John. No one can deny that he was a deeply unpleasant and ungodly man. But academic historians have been forced to admit over the last several decades that his reputation as a supervillain despot is a myth. In truth, he was no more demonstrably cruel or tyrannical than any other monarch of his era. He was, however, far less willing to flatter and play get-along with high ranking nobles. And that’s what ultimately made all the difference.

In the early 1200s, there was a large group of barons who were used to the king sucking up to them and treating them like princesses. Henry II and Richard I had done this, but John had better things to do with his time. In response to this dissing, a group of barons led by one Robert Fitzwalter decided in 1212 to take the only rational course of action: they plotted to murder him. The plot failed, but rather than executing the conspirators as he should have done, John instead made an increasing attempt to play nicey-nice with the traitors. Needless to say, this appeasement failed, and the rogue barons kept pushing for more.

The barons were after some alleged “ancient liberties” that had been granted to them in the past, and that the king had supposedly violated. Eight hundred years later, the true extent of any legally established baronial liberties is hard to reconstruct. We now know that many of the old documents that the barons pointed to as proof were actually fabrications. Regardless of the truth, the barons had no moral high ground. Their ringleader, Fitzwalter, openly flouted laws and made quick recourse to violence throughout his entire life. And indeed, once the Magna Carta was signed, the rebel barons immediately ignored provisions that were unfavorable to them. “Ancient liberties” and rule of law were fig leafs for a naked power grab.

(In later centuries, dishonest historians tried to give Fitzwalter a better motive by concocting a myth that King John had tried to rape Fitzwalter’s daughter Matilda. There’s not a shred of historical evidence for this allegation, but it would become the original basis for the character of Maid Marian in the Robin Hood mythos).

In early May of 1215, Fitzwalter’s party of barons formally renounced allegiance to the king, making open treason against the crown. To escape retribution, they occupied London while gathering strength. John had recently given the city of London a good deal of governing autonomy in hopes of currying the city’s favor. As one would expect, this didn’t work, and these new liberties only made the city more eager to back the rebel barons.

John was patient and conciliatory until the end. He sought to have the baron’s grievances arbitrated. The barons would have none of this. After John’s olive branches went unheeded, he was forced to sit down with the rebels in June and give into most of their demands. And thus on June 15 was born the Magna Carta. The document was broken into 63 sections, and the first 60 were mostly innocuous stuff. But then in clause 61, the gloves came off. A committee of 25 barons was established, and this committee would have the power to see that the king ruled in a becoming fashion. If the committee complained to the king, he was bound to address the complaint. If the king refused to do so, the committee would strip the king of his power and authority. As one would expect, the 25 barons named to this committee were all anti-royalist radicals, and many of them had been at the heart of the 1212 assassination plot. Clause 61 was thus, in short, a barely concealed means of callously destroying the monarchy.

The Pope at the time was Innocent III. He was no friend of King John. A decade earlier the two had become bitter enemies when John balked at Innocent’s choice for the Archbishop of Canterbury. The resulting standoff had led to drastic penalties placed by the Pope on the English church. But even in spite of all this bad history, when Pope Innocent found out about the Magna Carta, he was absolutely horrified. He declared that the rebel barons were all to be excommunicated if they attempted to see the document enforced. But he went further than that. In a Papal Bull, Innocent actually declared the Magna Carta to be legally null and void, as it was a blatantly evil attack on Godly hierarchy and authority.

Were the barons chastened by this? Haha, no! After getting the news of the Magna Carta’s nullification, they began an outright civil war against the English monarchy. For the next year, the nation was plunged into total chaos. Then in 1216 came the shocker of all shockers. Prince Louis of France crossed the channel, and Fitzwalter, along with many other rebel barons, sought to crown him the true king of England. The mask had finally slipped off completely; the Magna Carta barons were now outright backing the French in a war against the English. It’s difficult to imagine, both in theory and in practice, how the masterminds behind the Magna Carta could have better demonstrated their deranged hatred for the king, for England, and for Biblical truth.

In this dark year of 1216, a double tragedy struck. Both Innocent III and King John suddenly died. John’s heir, Henry III, was only a little boy. William Marshal, who was acting as regent for little Henry, spotted a fleeting opportunity. He met with the rebels, and offered to sign a new version of the Magna Carta in exchange for abandoning the civil war. Thus, two new editions of the document were signed in 1216 and 1217. The rebellion died down, and Louis hopped back across the channel to France. When Henry III came of age, even he bowed to political reality and signed yet another version of the document in 1225 to keep the barons happy.

Innocent’s successor as Pope was Honorius III. If Innocent was the Benedict XVI of the day, Honorius was Francis. Accordingly, he made no effort to nullify these new versions of the Magna Carta, and happily allowed England to live in its newfound (false) peace. Many decades later, one final revision of the document was signed in 1297. Pope Clement V nullified this final revision in 1305, but it was too little too late. The Magna Carta was deeply embedded in English law, never to come out again. The antinomian revolutionaries had won forever.

We all know the rest of the story. In the 1600s, Edward Coke (the granddaddy of all activist judges) and Whig historians began dishonestly interpreting the Magna Carta to mean all sorts of liberal nonsense. It directly inspired the equally treasonous English Bill of Rights, and then the American Bill of Rights a century later. Practically every ungodly evil committed by democratic governments today has the Magna Carta as its most distant root. And sadly, even most Christians do not realize any of this. Modern Popes, probably unaware of Innocent’s Papal Bull, have even been known to use the phrase “the Magna Carta of X” in a positive fashion.

A few days ago, it was reported that sociologists now expect Christianity to virtually die out in England around the year 2067. I can’t think of a more symbolically perfect thing to be in the news right as the 800th anniversary arrives. A nation, no less than a man, will always reap what it sows. The seeds of the west’s contemporary obliteration, it’s godlessness and inhumanity, were irrevocably sown at Runnymede by an evil legion of soulless barons. I don’t know when the madness will end, but today, we can at least remember where it all began.

Ireland’s Rebellion Continues

Going forward, I plan to move beyond the narrow issue of abortion. This is not because I no longer think it’s an important issue. Just that there are other important issues I want to speak to as well. Tonight, we’ll look at gay marriage.

As of this writing, the nation of Ireland has just finished voting in a referendum to legalize gay marriage. The results will be announced tomorrow, but basically everyone expects the YES vote to win. I expect there will be a lot of blowback in social conservative circles about how Ireland has turned its back on God, and rebelled. But this rebellion is not new. Ireland has been in rebellion against God since long before the day of its independence. Back in 1890, Irish leader Charles Stewart Parnell desecrated the institution of marriage. The Catholic Church rightfully took Parnell to task for this, but much to the church’s surprise, the rank and file citizens of Ireland sympathized entirely with Parnell.

After independence, Ireland wrote a Constitution which began with these words:”In the Name of the Most Holy Trinity, from Whom is all authority and to Whom, as our final end, all actions both of men and States must be referred,We, the people of Éire,Humbly acknowledging all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ.” But the words were lies. As the Old Testament prophets would have said, they were as devoid of real faith as the Temple sacrifices in pre-exilic Judah. The United States Constitution, for all its flaws, is at least honest enough to admit up front that its supreme god is “We the People.”

The most basic desecrations of marriage, fornication and adultery, seem to have been legal for a very long time. Then in 1995 came the barbarous popular legalization of no-fault divorce. God’s design in Genesis for marriage was by this point mutilated beyond recognition. Divorce, together with sex outside of marriage, quite obviously destroys far more lives than gay marriage ever will. Ireland is not beginning a rebellion against God tonight, but merely continuing one that has lasted a long time.

As a general rule, Catholic countries tend to be less ungodly than protestant ones. Indeed, Ireland does at least have the decency to (mostly) take a stand against murdering babies. But culture and history are not enough. Every new generation has a duty to submit to God anew. That’s certainly not happening in Ireland. Instead, the old ‘Catholic’ mask is slipping off the nation more and more. Tomorrow, it will become more obvious than ever that, spiritually, the nation’s Constitution always began and ended not with Christ, but with ‘We the People.’

Another Retro (and Prophetic) Pro-life Article

99% of the Congressional Record is crap, but if you sift through it patiently, you can find some true diamonds. I already post one haunting and prophetic pro-life article from 1970 that was buried in the Record. Here’s another one from the same year, which was inserted in the Record, as one might expect, by our old pal Representative Schmitz (R-CA).

America’s – any people’s – moral standards are intimately connected with its political standards. The moral ideas a people holds, its views of right and wrong, will be reflected in its laws, its politics. But the other side of the coin, though not so often noticed, is just as plain: what a people believes politically will help shape its morality.

                No one can be surprised that a pro-abortion politics has gained favor in a country in which a large majority of the population no longer takes seriously Christian teaching on life, sex, the family; in which, indeed, anti-Christian views are actively promoted in nearly all of its communications media, nearly all of its schools. Still, abortion is far from universally approved; few Americans as of now would wish to destroy their own young, and most probably think it wrong, or at least unpleasant, for others to do so. How, then, to explain the precipitous crumbling of civil opposition to the liberty to kill?

“I have always abhorred the idea of abortion,” said John A. Burns, Governor of Hawaii, a Catholic who attends 6:30 Mass every morning before work. “I believe it a gravely sinful act. I have considered abortion carried out any time after conception to be the taking of human life.” What is more, the Governor wished his people to know, the Burnses had been faithful to their convictions in their private lives. Thirty-three years ago Mrs. Burns, a polio victim, was urged by every doctor in sight to abort a child; she steadfastly refused; she lives today, as does her child, himself a father of two children.

So what would Governor Burns do with the “abortion on demand” bill which the Hawaii legislature had placed on his desk? He would not sign it; but neither would he veto it as he had been urged to do “by a number of my fellow Roman Catholics who do not appear to understand precisely the separate roles of state authority and Church authority.” A governor, Burns explained as he permitted the bill to become law, “must never let his private political and religious convictions unduly influence his judgment as governor of all the people.”

John Burns, American, was certainly right about that. It is a central precept of American politics that religious is a private affair, and that to extend its influence to the public realm is a violation of religious liberty. John Kennedy, American, took the same position ten years before on birth control. John Courtney Murray, S.J., American, had even earlier contrived a theoretical justification of the position: by baptizing the American concept of “religious pluralism” Murray and his followers sought to make the Catholic Church into an American church. They do seem to have had a remarkable success. All of America’s household goddesses and gods – liberty, democracy, pluralism, separation of Church and state – remain firmly on their pedestals; and all the altars are now to be freshened with the sacrificial blood of children.

In the premises, what is the present duty of the Catholic bishops of America? That they have a responsibility – the chief responsibility – seems plain enough. After all, it is the famous profession, the astonishing boast, of the Catholic Church through all the centuries that to her uniquely has been confided the Patrimony of the Poor. Others may step forward to aid the poor, acting in her name as it were; but the burden is here before Heaven: if others claim impotence or weariness or distractions by other concerns, she never can. And of course there will never ever be any poor who are poorer than unborn children, who are not yet favored with even the power to cry, to as much as murmur a protest against an attack on the single possession they have: life. The poor we will always have with us, but now there is this poor who is to be denied even the opportunity to share the inheritance of the earth. If mother, father, doctor, nurse, the whole of society’s mores, the whole of its civil authority, if all conspire to destroy this child, who – what – is left to defend him except the Church of the Poor?

The Church acts formally in such matters through her shepherds: her bishops. How have the American bishops responded to the campaign to persuade the American civil authority to withdraw its protection from the unborn? The record shows that they have opposed the campaign. But the record also shows that they have done so less vigorously, less consistently, certainly less conspicuously than they have begged funds from that same civil authority for their failing school system.

To be sure, the record shows occasional bright spots. The lead story of the March 13 Catholic Virginian, the official organ of the Diocese of Richmond, relates that Auxiliary Bishop Timothy Harrington of Worcester made a spirited appearance before a committee of the Massachusetts legislature to protest the liberalization of murder. But the same story relates that the Virginia legislature was about to adopt a policy authorizing murder (it did later in the week), and that meanwhile a Senate hearing was to be held; there was no mention of the attendance of the Bishop of Richmond, John J. Russell. Bishop Russell, of course, is opposed to abortion; he has said so, and the parish bulletins in his diocese advised you “to contact your State Senator.” But this bishop was not raising hell, and his flock, and his fellow citizens knew that his Church was not raising hell. So why should they?

Maybe the torch lighted in Massachusetts would rally the faithful? A difficulty was that the Primate of Massachusetts, Richard Cardinal Cushing, had just been quoted in Life magazine (Feb. 27) to the effect that anti-abortion laws are not only unnecessary but undesirable: “Catholics do not need the support of civil law to be faithful to their convictions, and they do not seek to impose by law their moral views on other members of society.” Of course this good man is a hopeless eccentric; quoting him is as cruel as stealing candy from a child; but the fact is that not a single American prelate stepped forward to repudiate Cushing’s announcement.

As so it has gone. Where the bishops are not silent, they are discreet, polite, very proper participants in the American political order. At their last semi-annual meeting, in November, they issued a statement on abortion, advising the country that killing babies was a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Which, since everything else seems to be, it probably is; but the point was not likely to interest the reigning breed of judges, let alone arouse the population. Let us agree that a ringing invocation by the Catholic bishops of the real authorities – the law of God, the natural rights of the innocent, the Christian and all civilized tradition – would cut no ice whatever with America’s anti-life regime (although it would add a nice adornment to the record). But if the bishops cannot appeal effectively to the finer instincts, there should be no problem at all in reaching the regime’s baser instincts. After all, they do have political clout, as does anyone who can speak plausibly  for a quarter of the population – yes, there are Catholics who are tolerant of baby killing, but they are offset by a still considerable number of non-Catholics who are not, who would be quite happy to have some spokesman for their sentiments. What if the American bishops were to rise to the defense of innocent children with something like the urgency, the militance, the determination – the seriousness – with which innocents are being attacked by CBS, the Cowles and Luce publications, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Women’s Lib, the ACLU, Judge Bazelon, Senator Packwood, Dr. DuBridge, Dr. Egeberg, whoever has spoken last for the Nixon court? What if our shepherds were to become fierce?

What if they do not? Well, there is likely to be a judgment. It is a safe estimate of the next few years that the American civil authority will have authorized the slaughter of more innocents, within a shorter period of time, than the German civil authority did under Hitler. This will not be our bishop’s fault. The extermination of several million Jews was not the German bishop’s fault. But some questions will be asked, which will be somewhat more difficult to answer in the American case than in Germany.

The failure of the German bishops to intervene vigorously against the Nazi genocide is explained on several grounds: a) they were not apprised, or at least not reliably, that the atrocities were taking place; b) to the extent they were, they were helpless to oppose them – what could be more futile than denouncing the Gestapo? – and besides c) they had the agonizing pastoral obligation to avoid inviting a comparable persecution of Catholics.

May we agree that none of these explanations will be available to the American bishops? Knowledge of the American abortion mania could not be more widespread, more detailed. Mobilizing voter blocs, vigorous use of the media protests, demonstrations – far from being ineffective in America – are the way of getting things done in our pluralistic democracy. And while persecutions of Catholics may come sooner than anyone thinks, America at the moment is a paper state compared to Hitler’s; at worst, a Church Militant on the abortion issue would run the risk of losing the government’s financial favors.

There is a further ground of comparison. The Jewish innocents were, for the most part, able-bodied men and women, who could at least put up a struggle in their own defense. The American innocents are too poor even to do that.

This is hard talk to the bishops, because we wish to hear hard talk from them at their April meeting in San Francisco; not the usual jeremiads, but a fighting declaration of war against the whole abortion establishment – most definitely including the American civil authorities, legislative, judicial, and executive, who are fast establishing the most sordid of crimes as high national policy.”

IV. Groundhog Day

On December 21, 1970, the Supreme Court struck down an attempt by Congress to lower the voting age to 18 in Oregon v. Mitchell.

On July 1, 1971, the 26th amendment was ratified, enshrining a voting age of 18 in the United States Constitution.

On January 22, 1973, the Supreme Court declared genocide on unwanted children in the womb in Roe v. Wade.

Forty years later, Roe’s principles are still sound Constitutional law.

***

This Tuesday, we commemorate the 40th anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies in American history.  Even if a right to life amendment had been passed almost immediately, thousands of babies still would have been legally killed in the brief interim, and Roe would still be a disaster worthy of our collective memory as Americans.

But there is another, far greater, far grimmer, and far more heartbreaking tragedy we must remember tomorrow: the four decades between 1/22/73 and 1/22/13. It is one thing for nine judges to make a ruling on a single day. It is quite another for hundreds of millions of ordinary citizens to go on killing for scores of years without ever realizing their own iniquity. All nine men who gave Roe life are now dead. And of course, they’re no longer needed – millions upon millions of average men and women are willing and able to keep it alive forever. And just today, one of their own was inaugurated for a second term as President.

One feels like Phil Connors from the movie Groundhog Day. “I wake up every day, right here, right in Punxsutawney, and it’s always February 2nd, and there’s nothing I can do about it.” Every day we wake up, we’re always right here, in a nation that delights in euphemistic child-killing, and it’s always January 22nd, and there’ s nothing we can do about it. Phil Connors eventually made it to February 3rd. I don’t know if America has the heart and soul left to ever make it to January 23rd.

In truth though, we also must remember the very little known fact that January 21st wasn’t all that different. Legal abortion did not have its genesis in the judiciary, but owes its existence to the legislative branch – the branch of the people. In the late 1960s, before courts had even hinted at a Constitutional right, states began making children of rape and incest legitimate objects for execution. Then in 1970, four states legalized abortion on demand – one by popular referendum.

Critically, the law in New York allowed for non-residents to obtain abortion. In all 50 states, all that legally stood between an unwanted child and death was the cost of travel to New York. Did Americans care? No, they were too busy with important issues like the right of 18 year olds to vote. In the grand scheme of things, the only real effect of Roe was to eliminate the possible need for interstate travel. Once again, Americans did not care. They were more caught up in the heart-wrenching spectacle of a hotel break-in. And even after Watergate finally, mercifully ran its course, Americans found plenty of other distractions over the next four decades.

And so, Americans have never seen fit to abolish abortion. Congress has never even come close to voicing disapproval of our legal genocide. The same body that can muster almost unanimous displays of support for an inanimate piece of fabric (the American flag) and a rote and dessicated collection of words (the pledge of allegiance), turns out to be too hard hearted to give actual people – actual children – the time of day. In this, Congress well reflects the will of the people.

At this point, it seems the only thing which will stop 40 years from becoming 50, 60, and then 70 is the collapse of the nation altogether. Back in the 1800s, the arc of history favored the slavery abolitionists. The arc of history is not on the side of the abolitionist today. Forget the polls you’ve found. Take note only of heavily conservative Indiana, which rejected a Senate candidate who dared to believe that all life deserved to live. Or remember Mississippi, the highly religious state which could not bring itself to declare that life began at conception. Or simply remind yourself of who was inaugurated as our president today.

III. God is Not Mocked

Those who claim the United States is a Christian nation have no shortage of evidence in their arsenal. Do not the very coins we carry in our pockets say “In God We Trust”? Does not our pledge to the flag contain the words “One Nation, Under God”? Did not the Declaration of Independence close by asserting “firm reliance on the protection of divine providence”? Does not Congress open each day with some minister offering prayer before God? Did not even public school commence with prayers until the Supreme Court controversially ended the practice in the 1960s? On all counts, the answer is a resounding yes.

But does any of this make us a Christian nation? Hardly. One doesn’t need to read much of the Bible to understand that God cares little about a nation’s public declarations of faith, and more about the way the nation’s citizens actually live their lives. As Christ said of Israel, He would say of America: “these people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.” Legal abortion is perhaps the most visible way in which Americans fail to live as a godly people, regardless of what our coins and pledge attest.

The National Prayer Breakfast, held annually in Washington DC, is one of the more grotesque examples of empty god-talk to be found in America today. Inoffensive, but pious-sounding generalities are the norm at the breakfast. Occasionally though, the organizers accidentally invite someone who gives a good speech. Perhaps most famously, Mother Teresa forcefully condemned abortion in 1994, and just last year, Evangelical author Eric Metaxas did so as well.

One day, I found a transcript of the 1973 prayer breakfast in an old issue of the Congressional Record. It was held on February 1, just ten days after the Roe ruling. And five days after the cease-fire in Vietnam. And two days after Senator John Stennis (D-MS) was non-fatally shot. As one might expect, the latter two events were the ones on the mind of the breakfast participants. Then, as now, the massacre of the unborn was out of sight, and out of mind. And so, with a false air of piousness, the breakfast proceeded.

Nixon aide Ann Armstrong gave the opening prayer. Then Representatives Al Quie and John Myers made some forgettable statements. And then, who should give the Old Testament reading, but Harry Blackmun!!! Yes, Justice Harry Blackmun, the author of Roe, was there before a large crowd of professed Christians, reading from Isaiah 40. And what a passage to read! Isaiah 40 is one of the most powerful statements of God’s absolute sovereignty over humankind. “He reduces princes to nothing,” read Blackmun, “He annihilates the rulers of the world.” Was the same man who just decreed that unwanted babies were to be annihilated now daring to cast himself as a devoted servant of God?

Next up was Senator Mark Hatfield (R-OR). In the months to come, he would strongly advocate a right to life amendment to the Constitution. He had a unique moment in history to speak truth to power – to really give Blackmun the words he deserved at that moment. He had a chance to direct the attention of everyone to the legalized genocide which Blackmun had begun a week and a half ago. And as Hatfield spoke, that seemed a real possibility.

“If we pray to the Biblical God of justice and righteousness,” he told the breakfast, “we fall under God’s judgment for calling upon His name but failing to obey His commandments. Our Lord Jesus Christ confronts false petitioners who disobey the word of God when He said “why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do the things I say?” God tells us that acceptable worship and obedience are expressed by specific acts of love and justice… Today our prayers must begin with repentance.”

But then, as Hatfield continued on, it became clear that he had the Vietnam war in mind rather than Roe. He was going after Nixon rather than Blackmun. For all his insight, Hatfield had sadly gotten swept up with the Nixon hatred of the day, and failed to address his excoriation toward the man who most needed it. Still, edit out a few references to the war, and the speech holds up well today. “Those who truly follow Christ,” he pointed out, “will more often find themselves not with comfortable majorities, but with miserable minorities.” Or again, “Lives lived under the Lordship of Jesus Christ at this point in history may well put us at odds with the values of our society.”

None of the other speakers after Hatfield said anything of note. Mere meaningless civil religion. Forty years later, legal abortion still exists, and so does the National Prayer Breakfast. Apparently, many self-professed Christians in Washington continue to believe that God can be fobbed off by an annual spectacle of vacuous spirituality. In truth, as all but the most willfully blind can easily discern, God is not mocked; whatever a nation sows it shall reap. In four decades, America has sown the blood of 55 million children. Is it any wonder that we have reaped another term for Obama?