Kerry and the Wall(Reprinted from the issue of June 10, 2004)
The Second Vatican Council declared abortion an unspeakable crime. It didnt add that of course this may cease to be true as modern society continues to evolve. And nobody at the time objected to this teaching; that was the authentic, authoritative voice of Catholicism, and even most people who rejected the Churchs authority agreed with it.
A decade after the council spoke, the U.S. Supreme Court suddenly discovered that most legal restrictions on abortion violated the U.S. Constitution. Catholic politicians, especially Democrats, quickly adapted to the Courts new teaching, preserving a fig leaf of Catholic fidelity by saying they were personally opposed to abortion, which isnt quite the same as calling it an unspeakable crime, maybe, but in their minds, close enough.
Now we are hearing that the Catholic bishops will be violating the wall of separation between church and state if they refuse the sacraments to John Kerry and other adaptable Catholic pols who have actively promoted that which they are so personally opposed to. Its hard to overstate the absurdity of this argument.
In the first place, the Church cant violate the separation of church and state. The First Amendment binds only the state specifically, Congress while respecting the free exercise of religion, which you would think includes the right of a church to continue upholding its own doctrines and disciplining its own members.
What the argument really implies is that the state may unilaterally move the Wall of Separation. If the state suddenly approves abortion, or for that matter cannibalism, then the churches must stifle their objections to it. This would actually endow the state with spiritual authority over the Church! Is that what separating church and state means nowadays?
I guess it is. Twenty years ago the Communist regime in Poland ordered the removal of crucifixes from schools, on grounds that the state owned the schools and separating church and state required their removal.
Fortunately, the Poles proved less submissive to the state than Americans, whose general response to the outrage of Roe v. Wade has been to accept the unspeakable crime as a constitutional right.
Of course only one Church is the target of these specious arguments. People still talk about the Catholic Church as if she were a state, with compulsory power over her members, and thus subject to the requirements of secular liberalism. Many liberals and feminists (as we call the she-liberals) want the Church to be stripped of tax exemption if she keeps opposing abortion in any but the most abstract pronouncements. In other words, the Church isnt protected by either the free exercise or the freedom of speech clauses of the First Amendment.
Whats Wrong with the Neocons
The mounting failure of Iraqs liberation has brought discredit and embarrassment on the neoconservatives who urged the war. Suddenly the neocons are even denying that they are neocons; some of them even say that neoconservative is an anti-Semitic code-word that really means Jews even though its their own word, a label they used to claim with pride.
As the ex-Communist Milovan Djilas used to say, The party line is that there is no party line. The neocons have improved on this. Today, their party line is that there is no party!
Yes, the leading neocons are heavily Jewish. Thats not the problem. Many of their sharpest critics are also Jews who object to their fanatical support for Ariel Sharon and the Likud regime of Israel. And Israels wildest supporters in this country are Protestant fundamentalists like Tim LaHaye, co-author of the Left Behind novels, who sees the state of Israel as divinely blessed and the Pope as the Antichrists sidekick. (Are these folks going soft on the Church? They used to hold that the Pope himself was the Antichrist! Creeping ecumenism, perhaps?)
No, the trouble with the neoconservatives is that they arent conservative. During the Cold War, conservatives welcomed them as allies because of their anti-Communism and were willing to overlook other differences for the time being. But the neocons were still, at heart, Democrats of the New Deal, Fair Deal, New Frontier, and Great Society. Few of them accepted the limited government philosophy of the old conservatives, with its general suspicion of war. That philosophy, in their eyes, could only lead to isolationism and America first, which they loathed. They wanted America to be a warfare state, aggressively intervening around the world, and especially in the Mideast.
For the neocons, World War II was the model for American foreign policy forever, not just in emergencies. Or rather, they saw the world as a perpetual emergency, which it was the mission of the United States to confront. This view fits well with the current Protestant millenarianism, which sees the End Times as imminent, and is equally ready to sacrifice American interests to Israel.
Franklin Roosevelt, the bete noire of the old conservatives, remains the favorite president of the neocons the grand designer of both the warfare and the welfare state. They prefer the former, but they dont object to the latter in principle. In fact they fear any principled reduction of the role of the state, which is why they reserve their deepest animosity not for liberals, but for the old conservatives, as Patrick Buchanan, Samuel Francis, and others of us have found.
By the same token, they bestow honor on old conservatives who have converted, pre-eminently William F. Buckley Jr., whose National Review, once a fiercely conservative magazine, has become a neocon organ, no longer skeptical of Israel, as in its early years, but ardently, uncritically supportive of Sharon.
What defines conservatism, at its core, is a vision of normal life. This is what separates it from socialism and from neoconservatism. The neocons have only a feeble sense of what normal society, society at peace, would be like. Chesterton spoke of the modern and morbid habit of always sacrificing the normal to the abnormal, and his criticism of socialism was directed precisely at its attempt to treat life as an endless crisis, in which the state must always intervene. A socialist society could never subside into a peaceful normality.
In the same way, the neocons see the whole world in perpetual crisis, to which the only solution is American military power. But this is an essentially hysterical vision. A good example is the recent book (its very title is hysterical) An End to Evil by the prominent neocons Richard Perle and David Frum, which argues that the 9/11 attacks mean that America as a whole is threatened with holocaust unless it imposes democracy on the entire Mideast, pronto.
This fantastic view has proved a disastrous guide to foreign policy, which now endangers much more than George Bushs re-election hopes. But the blunder, so far, is far from apocalyptic; America will survive this nasty mess, and may even learn from it. Bush himself may even have learned not to listen too credulously to the neocons, as he struggles to return this country to some semblance of normality.
As it happens, most neocons are Jews and strong supporters of Israel. But their political philosophy would be just as defective if they were all strict Catholics.
SOBRANS goes to the movies, and sees what the secularized spectacular Troy has done to Homers eternal story of gods and mortals. If you have not seen my monthly newsletter yet, give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free sample, or better yet, subscribe for two years for just $85. New subscribers get two gifts with their subscription. More details can be found at the Subscription page of my website.
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|Copyright © 2004 by The Wanderer
Reprinted with permission.
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