Category Archives: Church and State

Defending Death?

In a previous post, two of the most common arguments for abolishing the death penalty, were examined and put to rest.  In the midst of this presentation, I promised to return to the topic because the arguments themselves are predicated on a fundamental misunderstanding of the reasoning behind the Church’s position, a position she has held from her beginnings.  When asked where the Church stands on Capital Punishment, most would put forward the “self-defense” defense, a position based upon John Paul II’s explanation in Evangelium Vitae and later included in the Catechism:

“If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person. Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity ‘are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.’” (CCC 2267)

In summary, provided that the threat to society from the person can be neutralized, then the death penalty should not be used.  Given greater and greater security measures, we should expect that the death penalty will eventually be done away with.  Or so the argument goes.  This may come as a surprise to many, but “self-defense” has never been the primary reason why the Church has allowed recourse to the death penalty.  And if it was, this would represent a novelty (i.e. a change in something belonging to the Tradition of the Church).  Instead the Church has taught from the beginning that the death penalty was a valid means of punishment.

“From the beginning?”

Within the classical tradition, punishment has three distinct purposes.  The primary end is the re-establishment of justice.  When a crime is committed, the order of justice is upset and is only restored when a proportionate punishment is given to the offender.  This is why the punishment must always be carried out according to the judgment of a competent authority.  The other two purposes serve only secondary roles.  First, the punishment must be ordered to the correction of the offender himself, that is, it is medicinal in some way to the person who committed the injustice.  Finally, it must serve a social purpose, primarily as a deterrent and isolation of the offender.

We can examine Capital Punishment in light of these three ends to see if it can be applied.  It bears mentioning that this is a different question as to whether it should be applied in a given situation.  This is a question that only the competent authority whose role it is to promote and protect the common good.  We are interested here only in the question of why in principle the death penalty is not immoral.  That being said, we can examine the primary end, namely the re-establishment of justice.  Does the punishment fit the crime?

Almost on an intuitional level we must admit that there are some crimes that are so heinous that the only fitting punishment is death.  If this sounds like vengeance then that is because it is.  Vengeance corresponds to the innate desire for justice that is written into human nature and it is a good thing when it is exercised according to justice.  This is why punishment should always be carried out by the competent authority.  If “all authority comes from above” (Romans 13:1) and “vengeance is mine, says the Lord” (Dt 32:35) then it is the competent authority that carries out the punishments of the Lord.

Even if you are willing to concede this, you might answer “no, there is no crime for which the fitting punishment is death.”  The problem with this position is first that it contradicts Sacred Scripture.  In the midst of His covenant making with Noah, the Lord says “Anyone who sheds the blood of a human being, by a human being shall that one’s blood be shed. For in the image of God have human beings been made” (Gn 9:6).  This is the principle of proportionality.  A principle that even Our Lord did not abrogate in the Sermon on the Mount in which He addresses His individual followers to avoid unjust anger and vengeance while at the same time commanding them to “render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.”  There should be no vigilante justice, only those for whom the competence rests (c.f, Romans 13:1-4).  Our Lord teaches how we should respond as victims to violence, not as punishers.  It is with this awareness that the Church has always taught that society may have recourse to the death penalty as a punishment; from St. Paul to Augustine to Aquinas to Pope Innocent III to Pope Pius IX to Pope Pius XII to Benedict XVI.

The second problem is more one of common sense.  To say that a mass murderer deserves the same punishment (life imprisonment) as say a rapist is to ultimately destroy the principle of proportionality.  That a mass murderer gets only life imprisonment would suggest that a rapist who, “at least didn’t kill someone” should get less.  This leads to a sort of arbitrariness in punishment, including excess or even no punishment at all.  We cannot eliminate per se Capital Punishment as a proportional punishment.

Although it is not immediately obvious, Capital Punishment also serves the second purpose of punishment.  It serves a medicinal as well.  St. Thomas says that the death penalty leads to either repentance or puts an end to their sin, both of which are good for the person.  Death is not the worst thing that can happen to us—hell is.  Repentance obviously leads the person away from hell, but keeping a person from sinning even more keeps them from further punishment in hell

Finally, how the death penalty serves a deterrent.  This also needs to further explanation.  Many people take this to be an empirical claim and think that the number of murders is no less in places where there is recourse to the death penalty.  But the claim is more about the law as a great moral teacher.  As a deterrent the death penalty is not a part of someone’s calculation, but represents an overall hatred of murder.  Most people would not commit and murder and one of the reasons why they have such distaste for it is the horror of the death penalty.  Rather than being an affront against human dignity, it actually shows the great worth of human life.  Recall the reason that God gave Noah as to why he should use capital punishment—“in the image of God have human beings been made” (Gn 9:6).

A Novelty?

It was mentioned above that the “self-defense” defense would represent a novelty in the Church’s teaching and would be a break with unbreakable Tradition.  “Still”, one might say, “the Catechism says what it says.”  That is true, except that the paragraph must be read from within its proper context.  The teaching on the death penalty is presented from within the context of punishment, that is, as Capital Punishment.

“The efforts of the state to curb the spread of behavior harmful to people’s rights and to the basic rules of civil society correspond to the requirement of safeguarding the common good. Legitimate public authority has the right and duty to inflict punishment proportionate to the gravity of the offense. Punishment has the primary aim of redressing the disorder introduced by the offense. When it is willingly accepted by the guilty party, it assumes the value of expiation. Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people’s safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party.” (CCC 2266)

This is merely a summary of the principles of what we said above.  What follows then in the next paragraph is meant to be an application of those principles based on the Holy Father’s prudential judgment.  He thinks that given the current state of the penal system, the ends of punishment—proportionality, expiation and deterrence— can be met with something like life imprisonment, rendering the only issue being whether or not society can be protected from further violence by the perpetrator.  As proof that this is a merely prudential application we need only look to the comments of the future Pope Benedict XVI when he said “While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia” (Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith).  It is both permissible to have recourse to capital punishment and to disagree with how it is applied.  The principle is set but how it is applied, like many things related to the moral teachings of the Church, is debatable.   Put another way, that it can be used as punishment is not debatable, when it should be used is.  As an aside, I should mention as well that, despite taking a lot of flak for it, Edward Feser offers an excellent explanation of why this is an imprudential judgment in his new book By Man Shall His Blood Be Shed: A Catholic Defense of the Death Penalty.

In conclusion, the Church has repeatedly affirmed the validity of the death penalty as a moral option for punishing violent offenders.  Despite a move towards a more merciful approach, this particular doctrine will not and cannot change.  The death penalty should always be on the table.

Catholic Culture and the Collapse of the Self-Evident

In a book written just prior to becoming Pope called Truth and Tolerance, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger describes the present day crisis of faith as coming about from a “collapse of the old religious certainties.” This collapse affects more than just faith, but leads to a total “collapse of human values” (Truth and Tolerance, p.140).  So connected are these religious certainties with our conception of human values, that we treat certain truths of the Christian ethos as self-evident.  Or at least, we did.  What we are witnessing is not just the death of a Christian culture, but also, what one author has called, the collapse of the self-evident.

The Enlightenment and the Collapse of the Self-Evident

Those who have been victimized by the project of the Enlightenment, the same project which promised to liberate reason from the constraints of religious truth, have seen reason collapse instead.  Rather than liberating reason, it has enslaved it to feeling and the scientific method.  There are no longer first principles, truths that we all hold as self-evident, from which reason and society might proceed.  Freedom reigns supreme, unfettered even by reason itself and it is every man for himself in this brave new world.  It seems that the only self-evident truth is that there are no self-evident truths.  Descartes’ skepticism has won the day—we now know nothing for sure.

Nevertheless, this is our reality and a failure to adapt to it only exacerbates the problem.  For those who desire to spread the Christian ethos they must come to accept the consequences of the “collapse of the self-evident.”  When we encounter another person who fails to acknowledge what is self-evident we assume that they are either stupid or wicked.  We assume that they are either unable or unwilling to see the truth. They are the swine upon which we should not cast our pearls and we counter with indifference and/or hostility.

Our Lord’s admonition regarding our pearls and the world’s swine is not without merit, but we miss a great opportunity when we fail to grasp that, in a culture in which the self-evident has collapsed, they may be neither stupid nor wicked.  In fact, in Christian charity, we should assume they are simply ignorant.  Rather than being, as we should all be, slaves to the self-evident, they become slaves to the fashionable.  There was a time when the Christian ethos was the fashionable, but those days are long past.

An illustration will help to drive the point home.  Many Christians find themselves absolutely flummoxed by those who support abortion.  The self-evident truth that acted as a cornerstone for our country, that no one may directly kill an innocent person, makes it practically self-evident that abortion is immoral.  Therefore we assume that abortion supporters are either stupid or wicked, marking them as enemies to be conquered rather than potential allies to be won over.  It is no longer self-evident what a person is.  Even if we are able to grasp that, then we run into a second “self-evident” roadblock, innocence.  What is an innocent person; one that poses no threat to my well-being or one that does not deliberately seek to harm me, or what?  That a child in the womb is innocent should be self-evident, the fact that so many people can’t see it is because of the collapse of the self-evident.

Every pre-Christian culture had abortions.  This was not because they were less enlightened but because they were pre-Christian.  Likewise with the dignity of women, slavery, euthanasia, and nearly every other societal ill.  It is only in light of the Christian conception of man that we can even speak of the value of every human being.  It is the fact that we are made in the image of God and worth enough for the Son of God to die for that we can even conceive of human dignity.  Throw out those two truths and the collapse of the self-evident is sure to follow.

We argue and argue, but our voice is lost because no one understands us.  We are, quite literally yelling into the wind.  Sure individual conversions still occur, but nothing on the massive scale that the Church is used to.  And that is because the smattering of individual conversions cannot sustain a Christian culture.

The Necessity of a Catholic Culture

Our Lord won a grace for the ignorant to see the truth on the Cross—“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”  But His Mystical Body, His visual presence on earth has been given a grace and a task.  This is the same grace and task that the early Church was given to “instruct the ignorant” through the foundation of a decidedly Catholic culture.  It started with a tightly knit sub-culture but before too long blossomed into an entire culture.  Constantine may have “legitimized” Christianity by adopting it as the state religion, but he was only acknowledging what every Roman already knew—the empire, thanks in no small part to a lifeless pagan worship, was in steady decline with the most vital part of society being the Church.  I am not calling into question the sincerity of Constantine’s conversion, there is no good historical reason to doubt that, only pointing out that it also turned out that a healthy Church has a unifying capacity in society, even if not everyone is Christian.  What follows from this is the rise of a Christian culture.

The Church may not be in favor of divorce, but they must finally admit that the marriage of the Church with liberalism is a failed union.  We have been trying for over a century to show how the Church is compatible with liberalism rather than showing how liberalism is compatible with the Church (or mostly how it is not).  Pope Leo XII may have been ahead of his time in declaring the heresy of Americanism, but he wasn’t wrong.

Culture, as the liberals (not in the liberal vs conservative sense, but in the sense of liberalism of which both liberals and conservatives are a part) know is built from the bottom up in the education of the young.  Why have Catholic schools adopted the liberal model and dropped the classical liberal arts model?  Catholic education was a battlefield in the 1950s when the Supreme Court put parochial schools in its sight.  Rather than continuing the fight, the Church schools simply adopt the liberal model.  There is no longer a uniquely Catholic education, except among a very small remnant.

Likewise, we are urged to call our Congressmen to protect the Dreamers, many of whom are Catholic immigrants, from being deported.  But if we are honest, they would probably be better off in their Catholic homeland rather than having their eternal salvation at stake as here.  Oppose Trump’s wall?  Fine, but how about building a wall around these young people so that they retain their Catholicism and not Americanism.  There was a time when there was enough of a Catholic culture to sustain many Catholic immigrants.

The examples could be multiplied, but the point remains that until we remain committed to building a Catholic culture, we will lose, not just the culture war, but eternal souls.  The collapse of the self-evident leaves many blinded by the fashionable and unable to see the truths of the Faith as livable and coming from the hand of a loving Father.


Sign of Contradiction

In what has been labeled as a landmark study into various institutional responses to child sex abuse, the Australian Royal Commission targeted two particular practices of the Catholic Church; deeming them as directly contributing to abuse.  There is a certain familiar ring to them with the Commission recommending that the Church remove the canonical seal of Confession as pertains to sexual abuse and make clerical celibacy voluntary.  Many in the media, both Down Under and abroad, have criticized the Church for being too quick to dismiss the recommendations of the Commission.  Of course, the Church has been listening to these “recommendations” for many years now and so has good reason for rejecting them out of hand.  Nevertheless, it is always instructive for us to look at why, particularly the recommendation to change the practice of celibacy, is not a real solution.

To be fair, the Commission was quick to point out that clerical celibacy was not a direct cause of abuse but instead called it “a contributing factor,” especially since it “is implicated in emotional isolation, loneliness, depression and mental illness. Compulsory celibacy may also have contributed to various forms of psychosexual dysfunction, including psychosexual immaturity, which pose an ongoing risk to the safety of children.”  Furthermore, “for many clergy and religious, celibacy is an unattainable ideal that leads to clergy and religious living double lives, and contributes to a culture of secrecy and hypocrisy” (p. 71).

Statistics Don’t Lie but People Sometimes Use Them Wrong

Because we live in a world that increasingly relies on empirical observation, it is always helpful to begin by examining exactly how they came to their conclusions.  There can be no doubt that the Church in Australia, like the Church in the United States and the rest of the world, fostered a culture of abuse in the past.  There have been many effective safeguards put in place in the last decade but there is always room for improvement.  Still, there is some extreme speculation in what the Commission is saying.  To say that celibacy is a contributing factor with any degree of statistical confidence, you must be able to compare the incidence with non-celibates, with all other risk and institutional factors (including size) being equal.   To simply report raw numbers and unadjusted proportions comparing the Catholic Church (964 institutions) with Hinduism (less than 4 institutions) is highly misleading and can lead to spurious conclusions (see pp. 45-46).    They mention that the Church had the highest percentage of the total abuse cases, but there is no adjustment in that percentage for the fact that it is by far the largest institution.  It is like comparing the number of murders in Billings, Montana, with those in New York City without making any adjustment for the population size.  Per capita the incidence of abuse within the Church is no higher than other religious institutions, making any claim that celibacy is a contributing factor spurious at best.  In a peer reviewed setting, what they reported in their numbers of victims would have never passed even the most cursory of scrutiny.

They may have data to support this claim, but it would have been remarkable since no other group has found the incidence among priests to be any higher than other religious denominations and some have even found it to be lower.  If you really want to know the truth as to the incidence of abuse, follow the money.  Since the 80s insurance companies have offered sexual misconduct coverage as a rider on liability insurance and they have found that the Catholic Church is not at any additional risk than other congregations.  In fact, because most abuse claims involve children, the only risk factor they do include is the number of children’s programs they have (for more on this, see this Newsweek article).

The Unattainable Ideal

There is also a familiar tone to their contention that compulsory clerical celibacy is an “unattainable ideal” for many of the clergy.  In fact, it is similar to the response that Our Lord gave to the Apostles when they questioned Him regarding “becoming a eunuch for the sake of the Kingdom of God” (Mt 19:12).  It is a calling based on a very high ideal, an ideal that can never be attained unless there is a particular call—”Whoever can accept this ought to accept it” (Mt 19:12).  It is both a free choice and a calling to a high ideal, but God always equips when He calls.

The point is that it is an unattainable ideal for all of the clergy without the necessary graces attached to the call.  But it is still a fallen man who accepts the call and thus the possibility for infidelity always remains real.  But just because some men fail, does not mean that the Church should throw away the ideal.

What this really betrays is a hidden assumption that everyone is making.  Priests are human just like everyone else and when they itch they must scratch.  We do not understand what celibacy is and therefore assume the solution to the problem is an orgasm.  If we can set it so that this orgasm occurs in a licit situation then we will rid the priesthood of this problem.  But again, if that were the case no married men would do something like this.

This is where JPII’s elixir of Theology of the Body comes in.  In man who has been redeemed by Christ, sexual desire is meant to be the power to love as God loves.  Nuptial love is the love of a total giving of self.  It is in the body’s “capacity of expressing love: that love precisely in which the person becomes a gift—and by means of this gift—fulfills the very meaning of being and existence” (JPII General Audience 16 January 1980).  Marriage and Procreation aren’t the only ways to love as God loves.  These are simply the original models that God gave us “in the beginning”.  Anytime we image Christ in giving up our bodies for others we express the nuptial meaning of the body.

With this in mind we can begin to understand celibacy.  Celibate life can only flow from a profound knowledge of the nuptial meaning of the body.  Anyone who chooses this vocation out of fear of sex or some deep sexual wound would not be responding to an authentic call from Christ (JPII General Audience 28 April 1982).  Celibacy is meant to be an anticipation of Heaven where we are neither married nor given in marriage.  It is a witness to the resurrection of the glorified body.  In other words, those who forego marriage in this life do so in anticipation of the “marriage of the Lamb”.

The Commission simply sees no value in celibacy and therefore is quick to dismiss it.  It is a sign of contradiction and therefore “has to be the problem” even if there is no way to prove it.  They rightly call it an ideal, but then fail to grasp the value of that ideal.  It is an ideal because it is also a sign—a sign that is valuable to the rest of society as a whole.  It serves a complimentary role to marriage and helps to show its true meaning.  It is an anticipation of our future life where our union with Love itself will be more intimate than marriage.  But it also shows the great worth of marriage itself because it is a sacrifice of great worth.

American Barbarism

Perhaps it is the apocalyptic mood brought on by the impending visual collision of the sun and the moon, but after the events this weekend in Charlottesville, I can’t help but wonder whether we are witnessing the end of civilization.  That is, I am not looking up to the sky for the end of the world, but up north to Charlottesville as the definitive sign that Americans have made the final leap away from civility and into barbarism.  A protest that was met by a counter-protest (was there another protest in there somewhere?) turned deadly and no amount of outrage will stop the barbarian invasion that is already underway.  We have met the enemy, and the enemy is us.  As Lincoln once prophetically uttered, “… Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.  At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

While many of those men and women who populated the White Supremacist “protesters” resemble the savage Germanic invaders that sacked Rome, barbarians were found in both camps.  It is not savage behavior that marks the barbarian per se, but the unwillingness to engage the other in a reasonable conversation according to reasonable principles.  In short, the barbarian is the one who kills civility by rejecting the role of human reason in human affairs

We Are All Barbarians Now

It is easy to see how the white supremacists fit the barbarian bill—there is no reasonable argument that can ever justify their position.  It is evil through and through.  But how can we say the other side, in protesting against this evil is also barbaric?

In his book, The American Cause, Russell Kirk says that for any people to remain civilized, they must have a defined body of principles upon which they all agree.  That is, there are always two ways to compel a man—by argument and by force.  Compelling by argument means that there are a set of foundational principles, those that brought the people together, that can be applied to compel another person as to why a thing should be a certain way.  This is why Fr. John Courtney Murray said that “civilization is formed by men locked together in argument.”  That is, the disagreement is over the application of the principles.  Once the principles themselves are called into question then there is no way to argue and force must be used.  A nation without principles is one that is uncivilized.

Kirk says that these principles fall into three main bodies, two of which are moral and political.  The moral principles have to do with what they think of God and human nature.  The political have to do with their ideas of justice and injustice.  That is, American civilization has always been bound by “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”  Take away this self-evident creed and you take away any basis for civilization.

The Roots of American Barbarism

And herein lies the root of American barbarism.  America is a Christian nation and we have rejected that.  The debate over whether the Founders themselves were Christian or not is inconsequential.  The point is that they were so informed by Christian morality, that even if they may have actively undermined it at times, they still framed with a Christian mentality.

“All men created equal.”  Where would such an idea come from except from Christianity?  At no time was this ever believed until Christianity took hold of the world.  Personal sovereignty?  Only because Christianity teaches that authority itself comes from God and man is free so that only with the consent of the governed can one rule over another.  Right to the “pursuit of happiness?”  Human nature is a fixed entity by God such that only certain activities lead to genuine thriving.

What Charlottesville represents is the civilizational suicide that Lincoln warned against.  The irony is not lost on me that his memorial statue is the latest to be defaced. We can reject our slaveholding past without rejecting the Founding altogether.  Instead we have rejected the great principles that this country was founded upon and now find ourselves unable to engage in an argument.  We forget that it was the proper application of the Founding principles that put an end to slavery.  As if this wasn’t destructive enough, we are all barbarians now because we have rejected God and made human nature whatever we want it to be.

The point is that the counter-protesters had no ground to stand upon to say that the White Supremacists were wrong.  If human nature is malleable then we aren’t created equal.  If this is the case, then who is to say that whites aren’t better than African Americans or Jews?  With no Big Daddy in the sky watching over us and judging us, we cry out when Big Brother Donald Trump sits on the fence pointing fingers at both sides. What we saw in Charlottesville is just a harbinger of things to come.  There will be more and more protests and with no other way to engage, more tragic endings like we saw.

Our Lady of Fatima and Gay Marriage

When Our Lady appeared to the children of Fatima, she warned that without conversion, Russia would continue to spreads its errors throughout the world.  The “errors” to which she was referring were mainly those of Communism, rooted in the philosophy of Karl Marx.  More than an economic theory, Marxism views all of history as the conflict between oppressors and oppressed and seeks to do away with all division, natural or not.  Marx himself presented it as a conflict between capital and labor, but those categories can readily be adapted to any two groups including gender, race or sexual orientation.  While the fruit of the Marxist tree that is Communism may be dying, the Marxist roots are alive and thriving within our own liberal democracy, a society that is deeply (and deliberately) divided.  This makes Our Lady’s words all the more prescient and ought to give us pause as we mark the 100th anniversary of her appearance at Fatima.

All of the prior Marxist attempts to remake human nature and society have met one almost insurmountable obstacle—the Family.  Marx himself envisioned this obstacle and called for the abolition of the family in the Communist Manifesto saying, “Abolition of the family!  Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.”

As long as the foundation of society remained strong and in place, any attempt to change society as a whole would ultimately fail.  But weaken the foundation and society will fall with it.

Not surprisingly, the Communist Party USA has been one of the most vocal supporters of the push for gay marriage.  They knew that by subverting marriage, the Family would ultimately be laid waste.  Ultimately this is why those who oppose Gay Marriage cannot give up the fight.  By removing one of the means by which the Marxist spread their errors, we are hastening the reign of the Immaculate Heart.

Thinking Clearly about Marriage

Pascal said that our first moral obligation is to think clearly so that before we do anything we must understand why Marriage and the Family are intrinsically linked.  Without marriage, the Family ceases to exist.

Amidst all the debate in the past decade about redefining marriage, neither side could actually define either the classical definition or the revisionist version.  In order to see why the family and marriage are linked, we must begin by offering a definition of marriage.  Marriage is the complete union of two persons.  It is the total union of their persons at every level of their temporal being—spiritual, emotional and bodily.  The conjugal bond is what makes marriage unique in comparison to any other relationship or community of persons.

What revisionists have tried to do is to remove one of the elements.  They would almost certainly call it an emotional and spiritual bond.  Although it may seem surprising it is the bodily union that they must remove; not because it isn’t a sexual relationship but because it is not a conjugal relationship.

Men and women are capable of performing all biological processes on their own, save one, procreation.  To perform this process they need a complementary other.  In other words, in performing acts that may lead to procreation, they become a single “organism.”  It is not just any sexual activity that unites them, but only sexual activity that is intrinsically ordered to procreation.  In order to be unitive, sexual activity must also be the kind that is procreative.  Any other sexual activity (including contracepted) simply becomes the exchange of pleasure and does not unite the two people physically any more than a handshake, a back rub, or putting one’s finger in another’s ear.  Only in the marital embrace can two spouses be physically united, an act that same-sex couples cannot perform.  Marriage, under the revisionists’ definition must therefore no longer be a complete union of two persons since the couple is unable to become one flesh.

A word of explanation as to why I have been careful about calling them acts that are “ordered to procreation.”  As a biological process, procreation has aspects that are under control of the person and aspects that are not.  One may choose to breathe, but one cannot choose to get oxygen into the blood.  Provided the conditions are right, that happens “automatically” and is outside the direct control of the person.  So too with acts ordered to procreation.  A couple can engage in the marital embrace, but whether conception occurs or not, happens after the fact and is outside of their direct control.  In other words, it is not the actual conception of the child that causes the act to be unitive.  It is unitive because it is a procreative act.  Grasping this helps us to see why an infertile couple may still be married (because they are capable of procreative acts even if they do not lead to conception) and a same-sex couple may not.

Marriage and the Family

It also helps us to understand what it means when we say that children are the end of marriage.  They are not the purpose of marriage—the purpose is the total union or communion of the persons—but they are the fruit of marriage.  In short, they are a natural result of the communion of persons in marriage.

With all that has been said, we can understand that the Church is not being old-fashioned when she defines the family as “born of the intimate communion of life and love founded on the marriage between one man and one woman” (Gaudium et Spes, 48).  The family as the first society a person belongs to forms that person in his vision of reality.  Each child learns that he or she was generated from an act of love and was quite literally loved into existence.  It is the school of love where the child learns both how to love and be loved.  In short, “a society built on a family scale is the best guarantee against drifting off course into individualism or collectivism, because within the family the person is always at the center of attention as an end and never as a means” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 213).

Joining the Battle

If the goal is to destroy the family, then get rid of marriage.  Erotic love is too powerful to destroy it altogether, but modifying it to the point that it becomes unrecognizable is sufficient to destroy the family.  Not surprisingly with a change in marriage we are seeing a change in what people call a family.  A “family” that is not founded upon marriage as the communion of persons is built on sand.  It is only the complete bond of the spouses to each other that keeps the family together.

Since the Obergefell decision almost two years ago, many Catholics have disengaged from the battle for marriage.  It is time to pick up the battle once again, especially considering what Sr. Lucia, the Fatima visionary once said.  “The final battle between the Lord and the reign of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Don’t be afraid because anyone who operates for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be contended and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue. However, Our Lady has already crushed its head.”  Let us re-engage and fight for marriage and the family!

Separation of Church and State?

In a letter to the Danbury Baptist Association written on New Year’s Day in 1802, President Jefferson wrote what, especially in recent times, has become his most often quoted words.  In offering an interpretation of the First Amendment he said,

“Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church and State” (emphasis added).

The Catholic Church invents the Separation of Church and State

Jefferson was offering nothing novel.  Christians have been preaching the separation of Church and State for millennia.  If we look at the great cultures throughout history, the idea of a separation between the State and Religious powers was anathema.  Whether it was Egypt or Rome, the Emperors were believed to be gods themselves and religious veneration was due to them.  When Christ uttered His famous “render unto Caesar,” He did so in a culture in which Caesar thought himself divine and the High Priest or Pontifex Maximus of the official Roman pagan religion.  This was the norm throughout the ancient world, except for a single country—Israel.  In Israel, the role of king was distinct from either the priests or the prophets.  The first king, Saul, was anointed by the Prophet Samuel (1Samuel 10) and even King David himself was beholden to the Prophet Nathan who accused him of murder.

Christians have always interpreted Christ’s admonition to “render unto Caesar” as a call to keep this Jewish tradition of separating the governance of the State from the governance of the Church.  On the one hand, we can see why Our Lord thought this necessary simply by looking at man’s nature as both spirit and body.  We live two distinct, although related lives—temporal and eternal.  His utterance baptizes these two distinct powers to govern each of the lives.  Like the body and soul, there is a certain precedence of the spiritual governance over the temporal governance, but still the two should work in a complementary fashion.

Why We Need the Separation

Why the Church and State should remain distinct is not entirely clear until we add into the mix man’s fallen nature.  As an effect of man’s prodigious fall, the body tends to drag the soul down and corrupt it.  When the Church and the State are essentially one, it is the Church bears the brunt of it.  History reveals this repeatedly, especially if we look to the Middle Ages, culminating in Henry VIII’s foundation of the Church of England.  The circumstances may change but the Church always becomes corrupt when it gets too closely tied to the temporal power.

To use an American parlance, the Church/State distinction is a form of checks and balances.  The temporal authority, because he is first and foremost is trying to save his own soul in addition to his subjects, is always subservient to the Church.  The Church would, in turn, make itself the servant of the Imperium in her conduct of temporal affairs.  Each serves to keep the other in line—when the Church oversteps her bounds and gets too caught up in temporal affairs, the State is there to remind her of her mission to souls.  When the State oversteps its bounds and puts the souls of its residents at stake, the Church is there to remind it of its proper place.  While this practice may have been abused, the power of the Pope to excommunicate a rogue Christian King was very effective in bringing about conditions that were good for the soul.

When the two function in this way the citizens of the State thrive and are holy.  The culture becomes Christian, rather than a mere State that happens to have a majority of Christians in it.  The Church recognized the importance of building a Christian society—one in which being a Christian is made easier by the culture—and therefore worked out her understanding of Church/State relations shortly after the time of Constantine.  Pope St. Gelasius I (492-496) who is often credited with “inventing” the separation of Church and State said:

“Christ, mindful of human fragility had discerned between the functions of each power… His reason for so doing was twofold. On the one hand, it is written that no one warring for God should be entangled with secular things. The raison d’être of the royal power was to relieve the clerics of the burden of having to care for their carnal and material wants. For the temporal necessities the pontiffs indeed need the emperors, so that they can devote themselves to their functions properly and are not distracted by the pursuit of these carnal matters, but the emperors, Christian as they are, need the pontiffs for the achievement of eternal salvation.”

The Jefersonian Distinction

Even if Jefferson did not invent the notion of the Separation of Church and State, he did endorse an important twist to it.  What was new about Jefferson’s position—which was subsequently read into the Constitution by Justice Hugo Black—was his belief that a wall of separation had to be erected.  In other words, he thought Church and State should remain completely separate.

Returning to the analogy of the human person, you can no more put a wall of separation between the Church and State than you can between the soul and the body.  To sever the one from the other leads to death—be it the death of the person or of society as a whole.

When the complementary role of Church and State is denied, the State will go unchecked in its power.  When the State finds no authority above it then it simply does as it sees fit without any regard to the moral law or the eternal salvation of its citizens.  In order to pull this off though the State needs to promote “bread and circuses” to keep the populace from focusing on their souls.  The “bread and circuses” can take various forms, but the form of choice today is sexual license.  It is not as if the Church merely disappears in this setting.  The State sets up a new Church, one that is merged with the State.  In other words, when you set up a “wall of separation” it will always end up merging the two.


Return of the Church-State of Paganism

Much of the West is returning to paganism in the form of liberalism, worshipping the god of freedom.  Like all pagan gods, it demands child sacrifice, even if is cleaner this time because it is done in utero.  Its churches are universities (really all public schools) and its high priests are the judges.  The State will “tolerate” other religions and grant “freedom of worship” but any public expression, especially when it comes in conflict with the State Religion, will not be tolerated.   The Little Sisters of the Poor may have ultimately won their lawsuit, but that is only a harbinger of things to come.  The next battle will likely come for not complying with the demands of the law for gay marriage.  You must be willing to profess the new pagan creed which many Catholics, even bishops and priests, have shown themselves willing to do.

This is really a project of the Enlightenment, it simply took a few centuries for the Christian roots of Western society to actually die out.  Those roots are now, for all intents and purposes, dead.  We are living in Rome in reverse and the only way we can act redemptively is the way of the Church—martyrdom or an appearance by Our Lady.  Throughout history those are the only two ways that a society has been saved from the clutches of paganism.  Let us pray that as we ready ourselves for the 100th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima that it is the latter.

What Americans Hold

Anyone who has studied American history knows that keeping Americans united has been the greatest challenge.  The necessity of a “more perfect union” led to the abolishing of the Articles of Confederation and to the delaying of a remedy for slavery by the Constitutional Convention.  America is unique in the history of the world because it succeeded in bringing together men and women from different countries, cultures and even races.  Every other country is united insofar as they share a certain character.  Italy became a nation because all the smaller principalities were Italian, Greece because the city states were Greek, and France, French.  It is the reason why Scotland always fought becoming part of England and why, in modern times, the EU is ultimately doomed to fail.  But the United States is different because what actually unites its citizens is, as Chesterton observed, a creed.  It is the proposition that all men are “endowed by their Creator with the inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” that unites us as Americans.  To use another Chestertonian image, America may be a melting pot, but the pot itself is what holds it altogether.

This “unity in diversity” is precarious and the danger of dissolution is always around the corner.  But the danger does not come not from any external enemy but from within.  Lincoln, the Great Restorer of the Union, said this, rather prophetically in an 1837 speech at the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield:

“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant, to step the Ocean, and crush us at a blow? Never!–All the armies of Europe, Asia and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest; with a Buonaparte for a commander, could not by force, take a drink from the Ohio, or make a track on the Blue Ridge, in a trial of a thousand years.  At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

As Lincoln entered office, the country was divided precisely because one of the fundamental elements of the American Creed, namely the equality of all men, was rejected by a large portion of the population.  Those who were trying to reform the melting pot were in danger of breaking it.


Without any danger of hyperbole, we could easily say that we are facing a similar danger today.  We are a country that is clearly divided and no longer merely along political lines.  This is obvious to all but the most myopic of our citizens (namely politicians), but no solution can be found until we treat the principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence as more than quaint historical facts.  It is the self-evident truths, and only these, that has kept our country united for 240 years.  If it is to survive the next 20, we will need to return to these with greater clarity.

I have written in other places about the elements of the American Creed, but I would like to take this essay to a more foundational level.  No amount of clarity will help us if we continue to deny the roots of the tree from which the fruits of freedom and equality flow.  One can argue all day long whether or not the Founders were Christian or Deist or just children of the Enlightenment, but that ignores the fact that what they built was built on a Christian understanding of reality.  They were breathing Christian air.

Equality of mankind? 

Entirely unknown in the world until Christ came to save all mankind without distinction—“ There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).  Rich and poor, slave and free, Jew and Gentile all came together as one body to receive the one bread (1 Cor  ).  We are so used to this idea that we forget how revolutionary this idea was at the time.


Self-government rests upon the Christian understanding of the uniqueness of each individual person created by God and he is “the only creature that God has wanted for its own sake” (GS 24).  This power of self-government that is received from God can be transmitted to the governing party and taken away in dire situations.  As an aside, this was a foundational argument of Jefferson’s in the Declaration of Independence—“ But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

The point is that we cannot continue to take of the fruit of the tree while simultaneously digging up the roots.  This is why John Adams in reflecting on the Constitution said that it is “made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”  His point is that any attempt at self-government requires the ability for each person to govern himself.  It requires virtue (i.e. a moral people).  Only those who are virtuous can use their freedom well and in the manner it was intended, namely “the pursuit of happiness.”  But as history bears out (including the failed attempt of the French Revolution based on the similar founding principles), virtue is not enough.  Virtue requires religion.  While there may be individual exceptions in a given society, the beginning of virtue is the fear of the Lord.  Fear of judgment is not the end of virtue, but it is certainly the beginning.  One must believe that he will eventually have to answer for his deeds (i.e. a religious people).

While some of the Founders may have seen religion only from a utilitarian viewpoint, this will not do.  Our country needs not just “religion” but Christianity to survive.  It is instructive to reflect on Jefferson’s use of the term “Church” when he speaks about the “wall of separation between Church and State.”  Only Christianity has Churches.  Despite his own religious leanings he knew that America needed Christianity.  That means all of us need to be more Christian and not less.  The peace of our society and the salvation of souls depends upon it.

A society like ours that has become indifferent and even hostile in some ways to Christianity is cutting off its nose to spite its face.  The argument over which color lives matter presupposes the question as to why any lives matter at all—and only a Christian has an adequate response.  All lives matter because God has definitively said so in giving the life of His Son.  Why are we all dissatisfied with our choices for President?  Because we inherently know that character matters more than competence, another tenant Christianity has taught us.  In this great moment of division, who will lead?  It must be Christians willing to sacrifice themselves holding the pot together for a love a God and neighbor.

A Right to Privacy?

During an interview on Meet the Press this past Sunday, Democratic Senator and possible Vice Presidential Candidate Tim Kaine, admitted to being a “Traditional Catholic” who “personally opposes Abortion.”  Despite his personal opposition however he has “taken the position, which is quite common among Catholics — I have got a personal feeling about abortion, but the right rule for government is to let women make their own decisions.”

The Senator is right that his is a position that is “quite common among Catholics,” especially politicians.  But what never gets said is why they are “personally opposed.”  That would seem to be the next logical question that gets asked anytime a seemingly reasonable person says they are opposed to something that other people accept.  Part of the reason why it never gets asked is because the answer is implied when they identify themselves as Catholic.  They are opposed because that is what the Church teaches.  In other words, it is a matter of dogma that Catholics should oppose abortion. As a “traditional Catholic,” Senator Kaine knows that the Church (and American constitutional law) says that religious dogma should not legitimately be enforced by the coercive power of the state. It is also politically convenient because by suggesting that abortion belongs only in the confessional realm, Senator Kaine is able to play both sides of the field.  He can be personally opposed (and thus satisfying those who are also opposed) while appearing to be very tolerant of other people’s beliefs.

Surely as a “traditional Catholic” who is personally opposed to abortion he would know that the Church does not teach that abortion and contraception are matters of revealed faith.  Just as surely a Catholic who is involved in public life would have read St. John Paul II’s Evangelium Vitae.  If he had he would have known that “[T]his doctrine is based upon the natural law” ( EV, 62) and like all the precepts of the natural law, binding on Catholics and non-Catholics.  In other words, being Catholic has nothing to do per se with whether you think abortion and contraception are wrong.  Pro-life Catholic politicians are just as guilty in this regard of allowing the debate to center around their Catholicism and would do a great service to the movement if they avoided making that connection.

While the “personally opposed, but…” defense has been worn out, it is the second half of the Senator’s response that bears a closer look because it betrays a profound philosophical difference from what the Church has taught us:

“I deeply believe — and not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

Again as a Catholic, the Senator could again turn to Evangelium Vitae and find that the Holy Father anticipated his response when he said:

“Finally, the more radical views go so far as to maintain that in a modern and pluralistic society people should be allowed complete freedom to dispose of their own lives as well as of the lives of the unborn: it is asserted that it is not the task of the law to choose between different moral opinions, and still less can the law claim to impose one particular opinion to the detriment of others.” (EV, 68)

If it is not from the Church that the Senator gets his “radical view” then where does it come from?  It comes from a distorted view of the human person that permeates the modern American landscape.  It has even found its way into our laws through the so-called “right to privacy.”

Tim Kaine

Man by nature is a social being.  He depends upon others for his fulfillment.  Operating under this paradigm, the role of government is to aid in the development of the total person.  A good government is one that helps to create morally good people.  Laws not only protect freedom from the outside but also from the inside by promoting virtuous behavior.  Certainly it is always preferable to foster virtue by non-legislative means since virtue requires voluntary rather than coerced actions, nevertheless law cannot remain indifferent to moral actions because of its pedagogical power.

Operating under this view, there is an emphasis on the freedom to fulfill one’s obligations.  The obligation to protect innocent human life leads to the outlawing of all offenses against human life.  Each man sees himself as his brother’s keeper to a limited extent.

This understanding of man as social by nature is rejected in modern-day America.  Instead man is an individual with absolute autonomy.  He only enters into social relationships by an agreement or contract. Each man enters civil society and gives up only so much of his personal liberty as to facilitate comfortable self-preservation.  Under this view, the role of government becomes protective—protecting freedom from outside interference and from infringement by others.  Anything is legal provided it doesn’t limit the freedom of others.  The emphasis now shifts towards rights rather than obligations.  When two rights claims such as the right to choose and the right to life clash, the government must step in with positive law.  It is always the louder (or stronger) asserter of rights that wins.

Within this atmosphere of radical individualism enters the right to privacy.  This becomes a fundamental right because one must be able to do what one pleases without any outside interference.  This right has been elevated within the annals of the Supreme Court to an unalienable right.  Although it remains rather elusive as to what exactly it means, the Court ruled that the right to privacy under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion.

It is “deeply held belief” in the right to privacy that trumps anything else that the Senator might “feel about abortion.”  Accordingly while he thinks that an individual’s private choices regarding intimate and personal matters (like whether or not to bear a child) must have no government interference, this cannot be done without reference to the moral law.  In no other aspect of life do we treat the right to privacy as an absolute right except in contraception, abortion, and homosexual activity.  This suggests that it is merely a smokescreen for judicial (and in the case at hand Senatorial) fiat.

Can the Senator explain why the private use of recreational drugs is a problem?  What about prostitution?  The “right to privacy” remains unprincipled.  This is why the right to non-interference for abortion (Roe v Wade) quickly turned into a right to abortion (PP vs Casey).  The government now interferes by supplying the abortion.  This is why a “personally opposed but” stance does nothing except reveal a lack of personal integrity.  The Senator is far from the neutral observer that he pretends to be.

We need only look to Monday’s Supreme Court ruling as proof of its arbitrary nature and its impossibility to overturn.  Abortion may be a personal decision, but it is certainly not private and no amount of judicial gymnastics can make it so.

Voting and Conscience

As the primary season comes to a close and clear candidates begin to emerge, we should expect to hear more and more about how to vote as Catholics.  The discussion will center on “voting according to conscience.”  If we are not careful however, we will fall prey to the vague notion of conscience that has plagued the Church in the last 50 years.  Instead we should strive to vote according to an informed conscience.  In an age in which fact is often equated with truth it is necessary to speak of what we mean when we say that a conscience is informed.  We don’t mean that it is full of information or data, but instead it is alive in the way that a soul informs or brings life to the body.  An informed conscience is a conscience which is fully alive.

An informed conscience is able to recognize that not all goods and evils are equal.  An informed conscience has no room for a seamless garment approach to morality.  Instead it recognizes that there are certain acts that are intrinsically evil and cannot be ordered to the good no matter what the intention of the person.

To aid us in discerning how these evils present themselves in political life, the Church for her part has listed the so-called five non-negotiables.  The first four are related to the protection of life at its most vulnerable stages including abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research and human cloning and the fifth is support for so called “same-sex marriage.”  These are non-negotiable not because we are stubborn but because they are aligned so closely to the intrinsic goods of man that form the basis of the natural law.

It is grave matter to vote for candidates that support policies that promote these.  When we vote for these candidates, even when it is not our intention to support those particular policies, we still cooperate in the evil.  Certainly our level of cooperation may be remote, it is still true that without our votes these evils could not be promoted by civil law.

It would seem based on this then that the Catholic position is that we should be single issue voters.  The response to this is rather nuanced so that an example should make the distinction clear.

Suppose I take you in my time machine parked outside to Berlin in 1932 and ask you to cast a vote for or against Hitler.  How would you vote and why?

Despite all the robust economic policies that brought Germany out of the ashes of World War I and the restoration of German military might, you would hopefully vote no.  Why?  The reason is simple—no matter how much good he may do in those other realms you would not vote for him because his platform advocated mass murder of innocent people.  This means a single issue would cause you to withhold your vote.

It is the same with us today.  We should not vote for a particular candidate based on their stance on a single issue, but their stance could be a reason to disqualify a candidate from consideration.  Even if a candidate is pro-life for example, this does not mean that we should vote for them.  That just means they can be in the running.  We must then also look at his other policies and see how they promote and protect the common good.  In this way we are not single issue voters.

Flag and Crucifix

This principle is summarized well in a document that then Cardinal Ratzinger wrote that deals with when Catholics may receive Communion:

“Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia”

What about voting for candidates that may be in favor of one of these non-negotiables but whose office has no effect on policies related to these non-negotiables?  Even though these issues may seem tangential, they are still important indicators.  The first virtue we should look for in a candidate for any office is prudence.  A person who cannot identify something that is intrinsically evil shows a lack of prudence.  Secondly, these offices are often stepping-stones into higher and more influential offices.  It is better to stop their ambitions before they get any steam going.

An informed conscience is an uncompromising conscience.  All too often someone will say something like “since there is no hope of overturning Roe v Wade we should not even worry about whether someone is pro-choice or pro-life but instead focus on the candidate whose social programs will also reduce the number of abortions.”  This position however amounts to a compromise with evil and in fact is untenable upon closer inspection.

Pope John Paul II spoke of what he termed the “art of the possible” in Evangelium Vitae.  He said that in some societies it may not be possible to completely overturn laws that support intrinsic evils such as abortion in one fell swoop.  Instead we might need to enact legislation in pieces that seek to limit the number of abortions while moving the social consciousness towards laws that abolish it altogether.  This sounds similar to the position of “social programs to reduce abortions” with an important exception.  The legislation that the Holy Father speaks of must have the intention of reducing the number of abortions and not just as a mere side effect.  Social programs that may reduce poverty may also have the side effect of reducing the number of abortions, but that is only accidental, especially when the overall policy is to promote and even provide them.

An uncompromising conscience is one in which the Catholic will call an evil for what it is and not simply attempt to make the evil “safe and legal.”  Still an uncompromising conscience may have recourse to the “art of the possible” and fight intrinsic evils piecemeal if necessary.

During the Vice Presidential debate in 2012, Congressman Ryan gave us an example of how an uncompromising conscience uses “the art of the possible.”  He was even criticized for it—but he has been very clear from the outset that abortion is always gravely evil.  Still he was part of a ticket which would not make the so-called abortion “hard cases”—rape and incest—illegal.  This is not because he was capitulating but because he recognizes that making abortion illegal in 99.9% of the cases will not only significantly reduce the number of abortions but lead to a greater awareness that abortion is always wrong even in the cases where the mother was a victim of a violent crime.

There are many who will argue that the best approach when confronted with two candidates, both of whom support an intrinsic evil, is to refrain from voting at all.  This ignores the fact however that one of those candidates will in fact win the election.  One should vote then consistent with their judgment as to which candidate will do the least amount of moral harm.

Imagine if you can, an America in which the nearly 70 million Catholics voted as a single block.  Imagine how far candidates would be willing to go to cater to 22% of the voters.  This is why we must understand these principles and be able to clearly articulate them and present them to our friends.  It starts now, not in October and November when everyone has made up their minds.  St. Thomas More, pray for us!

The Church and the Lodge

With all of the tenacity of Sherman’s March to the Sea, all traces of the Confederacy in the United States are being wiped out.  Flags are being removed from state capitol buildings, statues are being torn down and there has even been a call to rename the Dixie Classic Fair.  There is however one confederate monument that will survive the scorched earth policy.  In Judiciary Square in our nation’s capital sits a Statue of Albert Pike.  Pike is the only Confederate military officer or figure to be honored with a statue in Washington, D.C.  What makes this statue virtually untouchable? Mr. Pike was also the most influential Freemason of his time, if not in the history of the United States.  To remove the statue would be to raise the ire of the Masons, who prowl about like lions ready to devour our country.

President Roosevelt was an ardent Mason and one can easily surmise that he attempted some court-packing beginning in 1937.  Between him and President Truman (also a Mason) ten Masons were appointed between 1937-1949 (you can see a list of other famous Freemasons here).  What this led to was a mere figure of speech by Thomas Jefferson, namely “a wall of separation between Church and State,” becoming enshrined as law.  Prior to the 1947 Everson decision there is absolutely no precedent suggesting that the Constitution ought to be interpreted as espousing a “wall” separating Church and State.  Thanks to stare decisis (which holds that a principle of law is established by the one judicial decision) and Masonic domination of the Supreme Court from 1937-1971 that allowed this decision and many others traditional Judeo-Christian values were permanently removed.  This is why Pope Leo XII in his encyclical On Freemasonry cautioned that the Masons “ultimate purpose forces itself in view—namely, the utter overthrow of that whole religious and political order of the world that Christian teaching has produced.”  It is also one of the reasons why the Church has always forbade the Faithful to be members of the Masonic Lodge.

For a great number of Catholics the fact that they cannot both be Masons and a Catholic is a surprise, but it is the constant teaching of the Church.  In the 1917 Code of Canon Law (Canon 2335), Catholics who enjoyed membership in a Masonic organization or any other similar group that plotted against the Church or civil authority incurred the penalty of excommunication.  Unfortunately this wording only led to confusion since there is no single governing body for Masons throughout the world and many lodges were not actively engaged in plotting against the Church and civil authority.  Pastorally many interpreted this to mean that they could join certain lodges.  Some even received ecclesial approval from their local bishop to do so.  When the 1983 code of Canon Law was promulgated it only added to the confusion by not mentioning Freemasonry at all, saying “[A] person who joins an association which plots against the Church is to be punished with a just penalty; however, a person who promotes or directs an association of this kind is to be punished with an interdict” (CCL, 1374).  It seemed as if the prohibition against Freemasonry had been lifted.

In order to avoid any further confusion, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under the prefect Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) issued its Declaration on Masonic Associations, shortly after the release of the new Canon Law.  He removed any ambiguity by issuing a four-point declaration.  First he declared that Canon 1374 has the same essential import as old Canon 2334.  The fact that the term “Masonic sect” was not mentioned is irrelevant.  Second, the canonical penalties are in no way abrogated because the Church’s negative judgment against Masonry is based on the fact that their principles are irreconcilable with Church teaching.  The main problem is not that Masons conspire against the Church (this is secondary) but the content of its teachings (of which the conspiring is its fruit).

Third, Catholics who join are in grave sin and may not receive Communion.  Finally to avoid any confusion with individual priests and bishops saying it is okay, he said that no local authority has competence to derogate from these judgments.

It is easy to overlook just how irregular the third point is.  “[T]he faithful who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion.”  Normally the Church will speak of an action being objectively grave matter and leave the question of subjective guilt (e.g. “in a state of grave sin”) to the individual and his confessor.  However what he is saying is that this is so grievous an act and the teachings of the Craft so contrary to all that is Christian, that the person who joins a Lodge is immediately guilty of a grave offense.


If you were to ask most Masons, they would describe Freemasonry as a fraternal organization.  They would deny that it has any religious content or teaches a belief system.  Their only requirement is each member believe in God in order to join.  They would cite all of the great good they do in society, especially towards sick children (the Shriners are Masonic organization).  The general public also would be perplexed as to why if animated by a Post-Vatican II ecumenical spirit, the Church would persist in condemning such an organization.

To begin, it is disingenuous at best to say that Freemasonry is not a religion.  The letter “G” in its symbol stands for “Geometry” as the gateway to the “Grand Architect of the Universe” or “whatever your name for the Supreme Being is.” But this is not the only religious reference found in Freemasonry.  In fact many of its rites are perversions of the sacraments (i.e. “sacrileges).  They have a “baptismal” rite by which a father renews his promises and promises that the child will be under the protection of the lodge.  Likewise they mimic the Eucharist in a Holy Thursday “liturgy” in which they never mention Jesus by name and candles being snuffed out one by one (the last one representing Jesus) in a form of black mass.

The “Grand Commander,” Albert Pike wrote Morals and Dogma as a compilation of the teachings of Freemasonry that are necessary for the initiation to higher degrees of membership in the Lodge.  In many ways it serves as a “catechism” of freemasonry.  Pike himself says that the Craft is “[E]very Masonic Lodge is a temple of religion; and its teachings are instruction in religion” (p.213).  In a somewhat schizophrenic manner he earlier claimed that “Masonry is not a religion. He who makes of it a religious belief, falsifies and denaturalizes it. The Brahmin, the Jew, the Mahometan, the Catholic, the Protestant, each professing his peculiar religion, sanctioned by the laws, by time, and by climate, must needs retain it, and cannot have two religions; for the social and sacred laws adapted to the usages, manners, and prejudices of particular countries, are the work of men.  But Masonry teaches, and has preserved in their purity, the cardinal tenets of the old primitive faith, which underlie and are the foundation of all religions.” (p.161)

The point is that they avoid the claim to be a religion by portending to be the foundation of all religions upon which the man is to build his personal creed.  As foundation, it is of course superior to all others.  Some of the basic Freemason religious doctrines include that religion can hope to attract the masses only by deliberately teaching error, God deliberately leads most people away from the truth, Christ is not divine and Satan is not evil.

Pope Leo XIII labeled the masonic teachings under the religion of naturalism. Naturalism denies “any dogma of religion or truth which cannot be understood by human intelligence.” It is appealing to Christians because it uses Christian terminology.  There is no need for divine revelation because all can be known through human reason.  In fact even if there was divine revelation it could not be put into words much less into hard and fast dogma.  Masonry as a “religion of reason” is clearly antithetical to Catholicism as a revealed religion.  The symbol of the cornerstone is meant to convey that Masons have within them the “sure foundation of eternal life.”  This means they have no need for Christ or the Church.  In essence they have made an idol out of reason and set it up as their god.

Not only is Freemasonry a violation of the First Commandment, but it is also a violation of the Second as well.  As the member grows in the degrees of Freemasonry, he takes numerous oaths at each stage.  These oaths are gravely harmful because they call upon God to witness against Himself as He as revealed Himself through the Church or He is being called to witness to a farce (at best).  It is not so much the secret nature of these oaths (with the internet and some strategic googling it is hardly a secret anymore) but the oaths that is the problem.

One may be tempted to merely agree that Christians should not be Masons, but in and of themselves Masons are harmless.  Leo XIII reminds us that much of the work of the Masons remains veiled.  He cautions that although the City of God and the City of Man have been at all times at war with each other “although not always with equal ardor and assault…the partisans of evil seem to be combining together…led on or assisted by …Freemasons.”  In a prophetic manner, Leo XIII summarized their teachings as:

  • They attempt to teach a “civil” morality
  • They reject doctrine of Original Sin and fail to see man as more disposed to vice as to virtue
  • With respect to marriage it is a commercial contract that can be rightly revoked by the will of those who made it and the State has power over the matrimonial bond
  • Youth should not be taught religion but follow what they want when they come of age
  • They teach the heresy of indifferentism (the belief that all religions are the same)

Who could dispute that the Masonic influence is felt greatly today in this summary of American religious convictions?  In an age of Co-existence, the Church and the Lodge remain at irreconcilable odds.

History is Bunk

Henry Ford once said, “History is more or less bunk.  It’s tradition.  We don’t want tradition.  We want to live in the present.  The only history that’s worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.”  Apparently, former Secretary of State and now Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, believes exactly the same thing as Henry Ford did nearly 100 years ago.  Back in 2009, then-Secretary Clinton received the “highest honor” from Planned Parenthood of America, the Margaret Sanger Award.

In her acceptance speech, Mrs. Clinton said the following:

Now, I have to tell you that it was a great privilege when I was told that I would receive this award. I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision. Another of my great friends, Ellen Chesler, is here, who wrote a magnificent biography of Margaret Sanger called Woman of Valor. And when I think about what she did all those years ago in Brooklyn, taking on archetypes, taking on attitudes and accusations flowing from all directions, I am really in awe of her.

And there are a lot of lessons that we can learn from her life and from the cause she launched and fought for and sacrificed so bravely. One in particular, though, has always stood out for me almost a hundred years later. It’s the lesson that women’s empowerment is always, always about more than bettering the lives of individual women. It is part of a movement. It’s about economic and political progress for all women and girls. It’s about making sure that every woman and girl everywhere has the opportunities that she deserves to fulfill her potential, a potential as a mother, as a worker, as a human being.

“I admire Margaret Sanger enormously … her vision.”  Wait.  Did she say she admired Margaret Sanger’s vision?  I wonder which part of her vision she admired specifically.  Because what most people know of her vision is quite scary.

One of her visions was to create a new religion.  The religion would be based on eugenics.  Sanger thought that eugenics was the most adequate avenue to the solution of racial, political, and social problems.  She said, “We do not want word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members… Birth control must lead ultimately to a cleaner race.”

Sanger thought that she had solved the problem that vexed most eugenicists from Charles Darwin and Francis Galton on down. In her eyes, natural selection was no longer able to remove the unfit because civilization had softened much of the severity of nature by its misguided compassion and medical advances.  She also said the problem was compounded by the high fecundity of the “feeble minded”.

Although this is probably obvious given that they have named an award for her, but Planned Parenthood has never disavowed her or apologized for her comments.  In fact they continue her mission today.  They build many of their facilities in poorer, African-American neighborhoods to help in primarily targeting African-Americans.  In fact, according to the CDC in the year 2000, (the last year for which they have reported these statistics), over 50% (503 per 1000) of pregnancies in the African American community end in abortion.  The CDC also reports that 35% of all abortions are performed on African-Americans.  Given that they only comprise a little over 10% of the American population that is a startling statistic.  It doesn’t take much to connect the dots on this.  If you want to know more of the specifics on this, check out  That is why I was never sure whether the signs of our first African American president standing in front of t of the Planned Parenthood sign promising FOCA were photo-shopped.  How this completely flies under the radar in our racially oversensitive culture can only be diabolically explained.  Either way, it’s sad that a leader in the African American community can be promoting this and certainly Sanger’s vision is not one we should admire.


Given that Mrs. Clinton’s “great friend” wrote a magnificent biography, none of this can be news to Mrs. Clinton.  It is easy to confront attitudes and accusations when they are true and you are completely unapologetic for them.  Certainly, this is nothing that we should be “in awe” of.  I think what she meant to say is that it is truly “awe-full” what she did.

What about how Sanger was “making sure that every woman and girl everywhere has the opportunities that she deserves to fulfill her potential, a potential as a mother, as a worker, as a human being.”? Of course I assume that is not including the nearly 635,000 women who will die in the womb this year because of abortion in our country. What about the fact that in places like China, abortion is used to selectively kill women in the womb? Hard to make the argument based on this alone that it is “making sure that every woman and girl everywhere has the opportunities that she deserves”. To say later, as she does, that it has changed the lives of tens of millions of women is an understatement to say the very least. I think that she means that it has changed them for the better, but anyone who actually lives (or dies) with the reality of abortion would totally disagree. Have the 65% of post-abortive women who suffer symptoms of trauma had all the opportunities they deserve? What about the women who battle suicidal thoughts and tendencies because of abortion?

Let me be absolutely clear on this. These are horrible things that happen to women because they have bought the lies about abortion. But abortion itself is morally wrong primarily because it takes the life of an innocent person. That being said, the fact of the matter is that anyone who says they are pro-women cannot at the same time be pro-abortion.

There is another section of her speech that I think bears commenting upon.  Secretary Clinton said that

It has changed attitudes and perceptions about women and our roles in society. It ushered in demographic and social changes that have brought us closer to gender equality than at any time.

I can’t believe that I am actually saying this, but I agree with her about the attitudes and perceptions about women.  This is the god of equality rearing its head again.  And of course this means first like any false god, it must have its sacrificial victims in the millions of unborn children who have been killed in the name of equality.  Rather than actually meeting the needs of women, Mrs. Clinton and those of her ilk want to make it possible for them to act like men through chemical alteration of their fertility and abortion.  What if we really treated a woman’s fertility as something sacred and helped them to participate more fully in society?

This is why we need to study history accurately.  We can learn from the wisdom of our predecessors.  If we did then we would find that Alice Paul, who was the author of the Equal Rights Amendment, said that, “abortion is the ultimate exploitation of women.”  What abortion does is give society an easy way out of meeting the real needs of women.  In making women as close to men, they do not need to do anything that meets the needs unique to women.  Society no longer has to take pregnancy seriously.  The early feminists such as Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton recognized this and fought against abortion by seeking legal protection from abortion for women and children.

For all the uproar that Humanae Vitae caused both inside the Church and out, Pope Paul VI’s prophetic warning about men easily forgetting the reverence due to woman and reducing her to a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires appears to have been dead spot on.  What he couldn’t have seen though is how powerful women like Mrs. Clinton would also forget the reverence due to women.  “Gender equality” created in this fashion does not mean equality in dignity.  Gender equality as a goal only serves to lessen the dignity of women.  That is what women and men should be fighting for.