Capital Punishment and the Culture of Death

July 29th, 2019

The battle against the Culture of Death has many front lines. The most important, of course, is the struggle to extend full legal protection to human beings who happen to be still within their mother’s womb. Every year, more unborn children are killed in the womb than all U.S. combat deaths in all our wars – combined. This horrendous injustice is a blight against our nation and we can never tire until it has been rectified.

As Catholics, we follow the leadership of our Church and promote what St. John Paul II called “the greatness and the inestimable value of human life” (The Gospel of Life 2) against all manners of threats. While we are particularly alarmed by the recent legislation in our own state and elsewhere that eliminated virtually all limits on abortion, we also see the growing threats in many other areas. St. John Paul, quoting the Second Vatican Council, condemned a legion of attacks on the dignity and value of human life:

any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed… (The Gospel of Life 3)

Each of these attacks on life cannot be isolated as merely individual acts, but they must be seen as part of a broad assault on human dignity. They not only affect their direct victims, but they have a corrosive effect on all of us. As John Paul said, “They poison human society, and they do more harm to those who practice them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonor to the Creator” ( The Gospel of Life 3).

It is in this context that we must express our disappointment and opposition to the recent announcement that the U.S. government will soon resume executing prisoners. Obviously, there is a grave moral difference between intrinsically evil acts like abortion or euthanasia that can never be acceptable, and capital punishment, which may be permitted under certain circumstances. It is also clear that one of the primary duties of governments is to protect its citizens from violence and crime, and that those who transgress the law should be appropriately punished and isolated until they can safely be returned to society.

But the execution of prisoners is plainly unnecessary to achieve those goals, and it has the direct effect of reducing respect for human life as a whole. America has the most sophisticated criminal justice and penal system in the world, and can easily remove dangerous people from society and keep them separate until they are no longer a threat. Studies by scholars continue to show that capital punishment has no deterrent effect against future homicides. It just isn’t necessary to kill prisoners to protect society.

Fortunately, our society has been gradually phasing out judicial killing. Public opinion polls have shown growing opposition to executions. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia have outlawed capital punishment, thirty-seven states have had no executions in the last five years, and thirty-one have had none in the last ten years. The federal government has executed only 3 people in the last twenty-five years and none in the last ten years. Most of the executions are taking place in only a handful of southern states: Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Missouri. Executions around the world are also falling, and over 70% of countries have eliminated capital punishment.

There has been a lot more attention in recent years to the possibility that innocent persons are being convicted, particularly due to the use of DNA evidence. The risk of executing innocent people is thus becoming more difficult to ignore. Earlier this year, for example, two men in Texas were exonerated for a murder they didn’t commit, after serving over fourteen years in prison. Just a few years ago another man was exonerated in Illinois after serving twenty-eight years for a murder he didn’t commit. And last year a man was exonerated for a rape he didn’t commit after serving thirty-eight years!

In a way, though, what concerns me most about capital punishment is the effect it has on the hearts of people. If there is anything clear from the New Testament, it is that an attitude of retribution, retaliation or revenge is absolutely forbidden. The law of charity commands us to see that even a person who has committed the most heinous act may be punished but still retains his human dignity and must be loved unconditionally. Any argument that appeals to the effectiveness or usefulness of executions, or any sense of proportionality of punishment, is thus irrelevant to Christians. The early Church understood this very well, and forbade Christians from having anything to do with executions (and military service as well). Church teaching has been evolving in a way that is actually a return to the early Christian understanding that Our Lord explicitly replaced the Old Law of retribution with the New Law of mercy.

Yet when the issue of capital punishment is raised in public, far too many Christians seem to be unaware of or even in opposition to the clear Gospel teaching. Just look at the comment section of any article or Facebook post that states the Church’s opposition to executing prisoners. You will see a shocking callousness and hardness of heart – repeated assertions that we are speaking of “animals” and not humans, an almost voyeuristic description of crimes that can only be intended to enflame hatred, desires that opponents of execution become victims of grievous injuries, greater concern about the cost of incarceration than the value of life, and an uncritical citation of Old Testament penal provisions such as “an eye for an eye”. Some comments by people who consider themselves to be pro-life and Christian display an undisguised bloodthirstiness that is truly appalling.

This is ultimately why the Church opposes executing prisoners, just as she opposes dismembering unborn children. Acts of violence do harm not only to the victim, but to the perpetrator and anyone who supports or justifies them. The Culture of Death is not something that is “out there”, or an abstract concept existing among the  Platonic ideals, or in some law book or court decision. The root of the Culture of Death in our own hearts, in our disordered desires and thoughts that see violence as the answer to problems (see Mt 15:10-20).

That is where the ultimate battle is taking place. It is only in the human heart, with the conversion that comes from faith in Christ, that we can lay the foundation of a true Culture of Life. That is why we defend the dignity of every human person, no matter what they have done, how old they are, or what their condition may be.

How Can We Love God if we Barely Know Him?

July 24th, 2019

Many of us are familiar with the popular online dating services, if only because they advertise so often. You fill our a detailed questionnaire about your interests, characteristics, etc. The service then matches you with potential dating prospects based on their prediction of your compatibility. You review their profiles and then, if you wish, reach out and try to set up a date and see how things go from there.

This makes sense. After all, nobody would ever say that they love somebody that they don’t even know. And nobody would say that they love somebody just because they’ve seen the results of a compatibility survey. To know them is necessary, but it’s not enough. It’s obvious that to truly love someone, you have to know them as they really are, which means that you have to encounter them in person, talk to them, and try to understand what’s in their heart, mind and soul.

This is the train of thought that I had when I read the very depressing results of a new study by the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life. The purpose of the study was to assess how much Americans know about religions — their own and others. They asked over 11,000 Americans a set of 32 questions. Some of the questions are quite easy, while others are more difficult. I took a sample survey and got 15 out of 15, but that makes sense because I’m kind of a professional Catholic and I’ve always been interested in world religions. Most people did far worse — the average American adult was able to answer fewer than half of the questions correctly.

The general lack of knowledge among Americans is troubling enough, but what the survey revealed about Catholics is truly shocking and dismaying. Catholics on average correctly answered fewer questions than Americans overall, and than Mainline and Evangelical Protestants, Jews, Atheists and Agnostics. We did marginally better than Mormons. The specifics are pretty bad:

  • 56% knew that Jesus grew up in Nazareth.
  • 55% knew that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
  • 61% knew that the Golden Rule is not actually one of the Ten Commandments.

Ouch. I have to say, in fairness, that there were some bright spots. 79% of Catholics knew that Easter commemorates the resurrection of Christ. 85% knew that the Trinity means that there is one God in three persons. 71% knew that Purgatory was the place where souls are purified before entering heaven. And the longer a person attends religious education, or if they attended Catholic school, they got more correct answers. 100% would have been better, but it’s still pretty good.

But the really depressing findings have to do with what Catholics know and believe about the Eucharist. Only 50% of Catholics knew that the Church teaches that at Mass, the bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of Christ. That’s horrifying enough, but when I looked at the data underlying the poll, I found something even worse. They asked only Catholics the following question:

Regardless of the official teaching of the Catholic Church, what do you personally believe about the bread and wine used for Communion?

Here is what Catholics answered:

During Catholic Mass, the bread and wine…
  • 31% said “Actually become the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”
  • 69% said “Are symbols of the body and blood of Jesus Christ.”

Fewer than one out of three Catholics actually personally believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. And only half of Catholics are even aware of the Church’s actual teaching on the “source and summit of the Christian life” (Catechism 1324). Heaven help us.

In his recent letter about the sex abuse crisis, Pope-Emeritus Benedict made some very important observations that apply not only to that scandal, but to the broader crisis that the Church finds herself in. His words are worth quoting at length (emphasis added by me):

What predominates is not a new reverence for the presence of Christ’s death and resurrection, but a way of dealing with Him that destroys the greatness of the Mystery. The declining participation in the Sunday Eucharistic celebration shows how little we Christians of today still know about appreciating the greatness of the gift that consists in His Real Presence. The Eucharist is devalued into a mere ceremonial gesture when it is taken for granted that courtesy requires Him to be offered at family celebrations or on occasions such as weddings and funerals to all those invited for family reasons.

The way people often simply receive the Holy Sacrament in communion as a matter of course shows that many see communion as a purely ceremonial gesture. Therefore, when thinking about what action is required first and foremost, it is rather obvious that we do not need another Church of our own design. Rather, what is required first and foremost is the renewal of the Faith in the Reality of Jesus Christ given to us in the Blessed Sacrament.

True faith, the kind that can bring us to salvation, is not just being able to answer questions in Catholic Trivial Pursuit. It’s a personal encounter with the real and living God, the Father who created us, the Son who took on human nature and died for us, and the Spirit who lives within us still. If we don’t even know or believe that Christ Himself comes to us in the Eucharist — the real Christ, not just some symbol — then we can never have the fullness of the  personal encounter we need in order to love God, to accept His love for us, and ultimately to be happy with Him forever in heaven. As the Lord Himself said,

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh…. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (John 6:51-56)

This is the challenge to all of us — if people are to love God, we have to make sure that they know Him.

Catholics and the Border

July 10th, 2019

There can be no real doubt that the situation on America’s southern border, particularly in Texas, has reached crisis levels.

Record numbers of families have come to the border without legal authorization to enter the United States. The detention centers that house these people are overwhelmed, and a government watchdog has found that the conditions in some facilities have become dangerous to both the residents and the staffs. The separation of children from their families has caused wide-spread outrage.

The causes of this crisis are like a Gordian Knot. There are so many interrelated moving parts — social disorder and violence in their home countries, liberal U.S. laws governing asylum applications, deliberate policies by government agencies to detain people punitively to deter further migration, the insufficiency of current visa programs, inadequate funding, court staffing shortages, and much more.

Any policy responses will have to be incredibly complex. Of course, the laws that are already on the books have to be enforced, and we cannot accept all who come to our shores. Other nations have an obligation to correct the social conditions that are causing people to flee. Everyone agrees that our immigration and asylum laws are in desperate need of reform, yet our government has a lamentable history of failure in getting the job done. Surely the rancid partisanship that has infected our body politic is largely to blame for our inability to even talk about these issues in a constructive way.

That is where we as Catholic Americans can make a unique and important contribution to this crisis. Because of the rich heritage of Catholic social teaching, we can transcend the partisan divisiveness and look at the problem from an entirely new perspective. By doing this, we can focus on the human dimension of the issue, which will help us to unlock some parts of the policy problem.

The foundational step for us to take is to make sure that we always focus on the humanity of those we are speaking about. It’s all too easy to dismiss those at the border as “aliens”, “illegals” or “invaders”, or even worse. It has become a reflex for people to reject reports that challenge their settled views as “fake news”. Tribalism is becoming more influential than facts. Emotionally-loaded terms like “concentration camps” only inflame things. Insensitivity and even cruelty are becoming mainstream. I see all this every time I post a piece about immigration on our Office Facebook page.

That’s not the Catholic way. This is the Good Samaritan moment — recognizing that we are speaking about human beings, made in the image and likeness of God and loved by him, people whom we are commanded repeatedly to love, and people who are in desperate need of help.

If we can shift the rhetoric of this debate even the smallest step in this direction, we will have succeeded greatly in creating an environment for policy solutions to be developed in a rational, human-centered way. Here’s an example from Pope Francis this last weekend:

In the spirit of the Beatitudes we are called to comfort them in their affliction and offer them mercy; to sate their hunger and thirst for justice; to let them experience God’s caring fatherliness; to show them the way to the Kingdom of Heaven. They are persons; these are not mere social or migrant issues! “This is not just about migrants”, in the twofold sense that migrants are first of all human persons, and that they are the symbol of all those rejected by today’s globalized society. (Homily at the Holy Mass for Migrants, July 8, 2019)

Is there anyone in American politics who speaks like this? That’s why we must step into the breach. Unless we start speaking about the people involved in this crisis in that way, no decent policy solutions will ever be adopted.

We Catholics should also remember that this loving solicitude for migrants is not something revolutionary and unprecedented. It is strongly based in Sacred Scripture and has been repeatedly proclaimed by the Church. For example, in the aftermath of World War II and the dislocation after the foundation of the State of Israel, Venerable Pope Pius XII made a powerful statement about the duty to care for and accept people who are fleeing to another country because of the conditions in their home:

You know indeed how preoccupied we have been and with what anxiety we have followed those who have been forced by revolutions in their own countries, or by unemployment or hunger to leave their homes and live in foreign lands. The natural law itself, no less than devotion to humanity, urges that ways of migration be opened to these people. For the Creator of the universe made all good things primarily for the good of all. Since land everywhere offers the possibility of supporting a large number of people, the sovereignty of the State, although it must be respected, cannot be exaggerated to the point that access to this land is, for inadequate or unjustified reasons, denied to needy and decent people from other nations, provided of course, that the public wealth, considered very carefully, does not forbid this. (Exsul Familia Nazarethana, 1952)

I have no illusions about the charged political environment in the United States right now. I get that the increasing abortion radicalism of certain factions in the Democratic Party, as well as their growing hostility to religious freedom, is a grave threat to life, dignity and freedom. I understand that we need to keep our main focus on the direct threats to human life like abortion and assisted suicide, and that any other activism might dilute our effectiveness.

But I also think that Catholics and pro-lifers can walk and chew gum at the same time, and that this moment is an opportunity for some real Christian public witness. Religious leaders from across the nation have been decrying the inhumane conditions at some of the border detention centers. Staunch pro-life groups like New Wave Feminists have been going to the border to help the over-stretched Catholic Charities workers in providing material support to those in detention. Scholars like Fordham Prof. Charles Camosy are providing the intellectual framework for a genuine Consistent Life Ethic that protects human life and dignity at all stages and conditions. More needs to be done.

There’s no question that the policy responses to this crisis are difficult. But that’s no excuse for us as Catholics to shirk our duty to humanize and evangelize our public square and to focus on the real-life people who are stuck in the middle of this crisis. Yes, laws need to be reformed and enforced, but there are a lot of people on the border who could use a little kindness in the midst of their misery.

After all, we have it on good authority that showing mercy is not optional, but is mandatory.

Is There a Limit to Abortion Extremism?

June 14th, 2019

When the Reproductive Health Act was passed in January, New York had the most extreme abortion laws in the United States, if not the western world. There are now virtually no limits on abortions even up to the moment of birth, and the bill even removed an obligation to provide medical care to babies who survived the abortion and were born alive. Our Governor has pushed through new rules that require all health insurance plans to cover abortions with no co-pay. Free and universally available abortion is the rule now in our State.

Our state is not alone in its rush to abortion extremism. Vermont and Illinois have already passed extreme abortion expansion bills. Rhode Island has one moving forward in their legislature. Virginia also has a bill pending that would strip survivors of abortion of the right to medical care. The Supreme Court of Kansas somehow managed to discover a fundamental right to an abortion in its state constitution. The rhetoric you can hear from the supporters of these bills are hair-raising — denying the humanity of unborn children, indifferent to the cruelty of the actual practice of abortion, and hostility to anyone who stands in their way.

When Alabama and Georgia passed strongly pro-life bills, the Culture of Death wasted no time in lashing back. Big business and the entertainment immediately announced that they would punish those states for making abortion less accessible, often arguing in Orwellian terms that limits on abortion make women less safe. Thousands of unborn women are not consulted about that.

The Democratic Party, which is the early stages of its presidential nomination process, has also moved to the extreme. Candidates are falling over themselves to show how much they support abortion. Even former Vice-President Joseph Biden, who has long been (inaccurately) considered a moderate on abortion, has knuckled under to the pressure and renounced his decades-long support for the Hyde Amendment, which limits federal funding for abortion. Repeal of the Hyde Amendment has become a matter of faith to the modern Democratic Party.  Apparently that’s not even enough for some New York City public officials, who have proposed setting aside a special fund to pay for abortions.

The extremist mindset of the pro-abortion crowd is perhaps best seen in the (perhaps unintentional) candor of the junior Senator from New York, Kirsten Gillibrand. She is running a hopeless and hapless campaign for President. In an interview the other day, she had this to say about her promise to require any nominee for a federal judgeship to commit to defending abortion rights:

I think there’s some issues that have such moral clarity that we have as a society decided that the other side is not acceptable. Imagine saying that it’s okay to appoint a judge who’s racist or anti-Semitic or homophobic. Telling– asking someone to appoint someone who takes away basic human rights of any group of people in America, I don’t think that those are political issues anymore… There is no moral equivalency when you come to racism and I do not believe there is a moral equivalency when it comes to changing laws that deny women reproductive freedom.

This, from a woman who claims to “identify” as Catholic but who has publicly stated that she believes the Church is wrong on abortion, gay rights, and other points. Apparently it’s not enough to be President, she also wants to be Pope.

Michael Gerson, the columnist for the Washington Post, reacted to the Senator this way:

To summarize: Opposing abortion, by definition, is a form of bigotry. And this bigotry comes from religion. And religion can’t be the basis for law. Therefore, in Gillibrand’s view, pro-life people are not only wrong; they are bigoted theocrats who threaten democracy.

It’s hard to take such a person seriously, but we would be wrong to dismiss her views as being merely another example of senatorial silliness. They are actually extremely dangerous, because the Senator’s view is not isolated. It is becoming more and more common in the far left wing of the Democratic Party. It’s worth remembering that our Governor has stated that pro-lifers “have no place in New York”. Pro-abortion advocates routinely say that we are “un-American” or even “anti-American”.

We are being cast out of polite society, and being told that we cannot even air our views, because we actually dare to believe that unborn human beings have rights that born people are bound to respect.

This kind of extremism and intolerance calls the question to the floor – whose views are more in line with actual Americans? The answer is clear – ours.

Polls continue to show that regardless of whether people call themselves pro-choice pro-life, most Americans are nowhere near as extreme as New York’s law or the Democratic orthodoxy on abortion. In fact, most Americans favor far more restrictions on abortion than are present in current law. For example:

  • Only 18% think abortion should be available to a woman any time she wants at any time of pregnancy
  • 61% think significant restrictions should be placed on abortion.
  • 23% believe abortion should be permitted only during the first three months of pregnancy
  • 11% felt that abortion should only be permitted during the first six months of pregnancy.
  • 29% favor legal abortion only in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother.

Fewer than one out of five Americans support the extreme law on abortion that has become dogma for the Senator Gillibrands and Governor Cuomos of the world, along with their sponsors in Hollywood, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and the rest of the abortion industry.  A solid majority of American favor restricting abortion either completely or partially.

So who’s the extremist? And is there any limit to abortion extremism?

Exposing the Ugly Ideology of Abortion

May 29th, 2019

The recent spurt of pro-life legislation on the state level has gotten a great deal of attention. That also means that more and more attention will be focused on the abortion cases that will come before the Supreme Court.

The latest case produced a disappointing result. Formally called Box v. Planned Parenthood, it involved two laws from Indiana, one that required a respectful disposition of the human remains produced by abortion, and the other banning abortions motivated by race, sex or disability. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit struck down both laws based on the Supreme Court’s prior abortion decisions, and the state then asked the Supreme Court to take the case.

There was a great deal of anticipation that this case might provide a vehicle for the Court to revisit its abortion jurisprudence, perhaps to expand the ability of legislatures to regulate it or even to review or reverse Roe v. Wade. Those hopes turned out to be unfounded. The Court did reverse the lower court and reinstated the human remains law. This is a good result – the more respect we show for human remains, the more respect we show for the humans who have died. This law thus serves a good purpose of reminding us of the humanity and dignity of unborn children.

But the unanimous Court refused to consider or reinstate the anti-discrimination law. It thus remains permissible to abort a baby solely because it is black, female, or has a disability or some unwanted trait. This is a tragic missed opportunity.

Nevertheless, there was a very important part of this decision – the concurring opinion of Justice Clarence Thomas. He is a vastly underrated jurist. If one were to listen to the media, the only thing he is known for is his silence during oral arguments before the Supreme Court or the controversy that arose during his confirmation. But in reality, he is a man of great intellect, principle and integrity, and his opinions are always worth reading because they are so well-done, and so clear about the authentic meaning of the Constitution.

In this case, Justice Thomas took the Court – and our nation – to school about the evil eugenics movement, and its historic and continuing involvement in the effort to keep abortion legal. He specifically called out the malign roots of Planned Parenthood and the appalling values of Margaret Sanger and other major figures in the birth control, pro-abortion, and eugenics movement.

Justice Thomas’ opinion is worth reading in full, but I will quote some of its most important parts that dealt with the anti-discrimination law. (Justice Thomas’ words will be in italics, I have done some mild editing).

The basic premise of the case was presented very plainly: this law and other laws like it promote a State’s compelling interest in pre­venting abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics.”

Make no mistake about eugenics. It is an inherently evil mindset, and typically uses language that would horrify modern readers. For example, as Justice Thomas noted: “As a social theory, eugenics is rooted in social Darwinism — i.e., the application of the ‘survival of the fittest’ principle to human society.” Sanger herself was an enthusiastic supporter of eugenics and was openly in favor of limiting the ability of certain parts of the population to reproduce because the unbalance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit’ was ‘the greatest present menace to civilization.'” (quoting Sanger)  This repulsive notion that there is “too many of them” is at the heart of eugenics.

This “threat” perceived by the eugenicists was unabashedly racist. “Many eugenicists believed that the distinction between the fit and the unfit could be drawn along racial lines”. Sanger herself particularly targeted black communities for birth control, and even initiated a “Negro project” to promote a reduction  in black births. She was once famously photographed giving a speech to a group of the Ku Klux Klan and bought off black ministers to allay the concerns of their flocks. In [Sanger’s] view, birth-control advo­cates and eugenicists were ‘seeking a single end’ — ‘to assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit.'” (quoting Sanger)

But eugenics was not just racist – it sought to eliminate other people deemed unacceptable or flawed. “Although race was relevant, eugenicists did not define a person’s ‘fitness’ exclusively by race. A typical list of dysgenic individuals would also include some combination of the ‘feeble-minded,’ ‘insane,’ ‘criminalistic,’ ‘de­formed,’ ‘crippled,’ ‘epileptic,’ ‘inebriate,’ ‘diseased, ”blind,’ ‘deaf,’ and ‘dependent (including orphans and paupers).” You can imagine how such invidious and subjective terms would be interpreted by ideologues obsessed with purifying the race. Indeed, this attitude was so widespread in the early part of the 20 th Century that it led to the enactment of eugenic laws in a majority of the states (including New York) and the involuntary sterilization of over 60,000 Americans – the last one as recently as 1983.

It also led directly to the legalization of abortion. Justice Thomas noted that “From the beginning, birth control and abortion were promoted as means of effectuating eugenics.” In fact, “some eugenicists believed that abortion should be legal for the very purpose of promoting eugenics.”Noted figures affiliated with Planned Parenthood were explicit in pursuing these goals.

It must also be clear that we are not just talking about abstract principles, possible future horrors, or ancient history. We are talking about current events . “This case highlights the fact that abortion is an act rife with the potential for eugenic manipulation.” At the present time, from around the world, “a growing body of evidence suggests that eugenic goals are already being realized through abortion.”

Justice Thomas specifically cited horrifying statistics about the systematic genocide of children with Down Syndrome: 100% in Iceland, 98% in Denmark, 90% in the United Kingdom, 77% in France, and 67% in the United States. Any woman who has had an adverse fetal diagnosis knows this – the pressure to terminate the pregnancy begins immediately upon delivery of the news. He also noted the widespread incidence of sex-selection abortions in Asia, which “have led to as many as 160 million ‘missing’ women—more than the entire female population of the United States.”  So much for pro-abortion advocates being pro-woman.

And he also highlighted the disproportionate impact of abortion on American blacks. The extremely high abortion rate among blacks in our nation is 3.5 times higher than among whites, and in some areas of New York City there are more abortions than live births among blacks. Justice Thomas sardonically noted that insofar as abortion is viewed as a method of ‘family planning,’ black people do indeed take the brunt of the planning.” Usually, such a disproportionate impact would lead to outcries against racist policies. Yet when it comes to abortion, those voices are strangely silent.

When this anti-discrimination law was enacted, Planned Parenthood promptly filed a lawsuit to block the law from going into effect, arguing that the Constitution categorically protects a woman’s right to abort her child based solely on the child’s race, sex, or disability”. Consequently, the position of Planned Parenthood and all those pro-abortion advocates who stood with them would constitutionalize the views of the 20th-century eugenics movement”. This is directly contradictory to the herculean efforts in our nation over the past decades to eliminate racist, sexist and anti-disability discrimination in all other areas of the law and society. That is the price that pro-abortion forces want us to pay, to keep abortion legal.

In his opinion, Justice Thomas did the nation a great service by tearing back the curtain that hides the true wickedness of the pro-abortion movement. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court – including those Justices who are considered pro-life – has once again shown that it has no enthusiasm for revisiting or overturning the evil abortion regime it established in Roe or repudiating the ugly legacy of eugenics.

The battle for a Culture of Life goes on.

A Bold But Risky Step on Abortion

May 16th, 2019

The State of Alabama has taken a bold step, enacting a law that would ban virtually all abortions. The new law has generated a great deal of controversy, as one might expect. Abortion is becoming a “zero sum” issue in our political culture – with the choice being made to look as if it is between either maximum protection for the unborn child or unlimited license for a woman to have an abortion.

Pro-lifers are hoping that this new law may be the vehicle for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Other laws have also been passed recently and may reach the Court, like those banning abortion after a fetal heartbeat can be detected (about 7 weeks) or after an unborn child can feel pain (about 20 weeks).

Based on the current composition of the Supreme Court, I’m dubious that they are ready to overturnRoe. There’s only one Justice (Thomas) who has indicated that he would do so, and there are at least four (Kagen, Breyer, Ginsburg and Sotomayor) who certainly will not. We don’t have any real idea how the two newest Justices (Kavanagh and Gorsuch) will approach the issue, nor is it by any means clear that Chief Justice Roberts or Justice Alito will vote to overturn Roe.

So it’s possible, but in my view it’s a long shot. There’s also a major risk that the Court could make the law even worse than it currently is. This involves some legal “inside baseball” considerations, so let me explain.

Right now, the Court’s abortion rulings are based on the unenumerated (i.e., not specifically listed in the Constitution) “right to privacy” that is protected under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (“…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”). This approach to constitutional law, which is called “substantive due process”, is how the Supreme Court in Roe invented the right to an abortion.

The origin of these unenumerated rights is hotly contested among legal scholars. We would point to their origin in natural law/natural rights, which were understood in the English legal tradition as coming from God, and which are inherent in the nature of the human person and society (as the Declaration of Independence put it, they’re “inalienable”). In this view, the state doesn’t create these rights, but is instead bound to recognize and protect them. Ironically, the “substantive due process” principle that led to Roe is also a kind of natural law argument, but it is a distorted one based on a twisted understanding of human nature and society, since it holds that personal autonomy is the highest value.

Regardless of where these rights come from, the key legal battle is over what standard the courts will use to evaluate any law that has an effect on them. In the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Court set out the test for whether an abortion regulation would violate that right. The key rule is that prior to fetal viability, there can be no prohibition of abortion, and any regulation will be struck down if it imposes an undue burden on the woman’s ability to obtain an abortion. The Court said that this standard evaluates whether the regulation has “the effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman’s choice”. In a later case, the Court read this amorphous “undue burden” standard so broadly that it would appear to endanger virtually any regulation ( Whole Women’s Health v. Hellerstedt).

As problematic as the “undue burden” standard may be, it still permits pro-lifers to argue for the validity of a whole host of abortion regulations. States have passed many such bills, including requiring hospital admitting privileges for abortion doctors, health and safety regulations, outlawing particularly cruel methods of abortion, and banning discrimination against unborn babies with disabilities. All of these are step-by-step methods to enact real protections and to advance a greater social acceptance of the dignity of human life.

In my view, passing laws that outright prohibit all or most abortions is risky as being “too fast, too soon”, given our current social and legal attitudes and values. The danger is that the Court may decide (as Justice Ginsburg has suggested, and as the plurality opinion in Casey implied) that the proper place for the protection of “reproductive liberty” is under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (“… nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”). The argument is that women cannot participate equally in society unless they have the ability to control their reproductive systems, and regulations of abortion limit that ability and thus treat them unequally under the law.

That would be a legal disaster. The Court has already held that sex discrimination is subject to “intermediate scrutiny” under the Equal Protection Clause. This means that any regulation would have to satisfy a test of whether there is an “important state interest” and the regulation is “substantially related” to that interest. In fact, the Court has said that the state must give an “exceedingly persuasive justification” for any classification based on sex. The courts have been very tough in applying that standard in sex/gender discrimination cases, particularly recently in the gender identity cases. I doubt that many abortion regulations would survive this test.

Even worse, going to the Equal Protection Clause would invite the Court to decide that “reproductive liberty” is a “fundamental right”. That means that the courts will apply an extremely stringent “strict scrutiny” standard that requires proof of a “compelling government interest” and that the law be narrowly tailored to meet that interest. In practice, a strict scrutiny standard is a death sentence to regulations.

We have to recognize that lower federal courts and many state courts are still hostile to us despite many good appointments by the current President. The legal community and academia have been deeply corrupted by the flawed jurisprudence and politics of “reproductive rights”. Convincing courts to uproot the poisoned doctrines of Roe and Casey will be a very difficult task, and would create a political firestorm.

The goal of protecting every human life is shared by every pro-lifer. But politics is always an area for prudence, meaning that we must be careful in the way we advance our values so as not to make things worse, even as we try to make them better.

When Ignorance and Arrogance Collide with Truth

May 9th, 2019

There is an expression (oddly enough, coined by the heavy metal band Mettalica) that “ignorance and arrogance go hand in hand”. When those two fellow-travelers collide with truth, it can produce a moment of exceptional clarity.

First, the truth. Last Saturday, thanks to Focus on the Family, an extraordinary event took place in Times Square — a pro-life rally. The mere occurrence of the rally was remarkable enough. But what made the day truly special was the climax of the event. Thanks to the amazing technology of 4D sonography, live pictures of a baby in her mother’s womb were broadcast to the thousands present in New York and many more watching online.

You can’t get more of the truth than this. Before the age of science, people could have professed ignorance about what is going on inside a mother’s womb. But now the truth is right there before our eyes, available to anyone with an open heart or mind.

Alas, we must move on to the ignorance. Only two days after the unequivocal display in Times Square, there was a spectacle on television that truly shocks the conscience. Old-time New York politico and current abortion shill Christine Quinn actually made the following statement: “When a woman is pregnant, that is not a human being inside of her.”

Yes, you read that correctly. A human being who managed to emerge from her own mother’s womb, and who otherwise gives every appearance of being educated and intelligent, failed Biology 101 and Common Sense 101 on world-wide television. This is far beyond the point of arguing about the legal concept of “personhood”, or about whether the child is “wanted” or has some kind of “defect”, or what effect the child will have on her mother’s life. This can only be attributed to an act of willful ignorance, driven by an ideology that cannot bear to recognize even the basic humanity of an unborn child and that has created an implacable enmity between  mothers and their children.

An ideology that is so deeply rooted in the denial of reality is a very dangerous thing, particularly to vulnerable human beings whose lives hang in the balance. It is no wonder that pro-abortion advocates are becoming more and more extreme and more and more angry — the persistent denial of reality can’t help but cause great mental distress to them.

And so we must speak of the arrogance. The other day, a federal judge in Virginia — the kind whom I often refer to as a Black-Robed Platonic Guardian Ruler on the Bench — struck down a law that required that only doctors could do abortions. This is truly breath-taking, for many reasons. It is bad enough that anyone would be foolish enough to think that a surgical procedure or the prescription of potentially dangerous drugs should be done by a non-doctor. Our abysmal State Legislature and Governor have already gone that far off the deep end. It is even worse that an unelected judge would be so bold as to overturn a validly-enacted provision that has been the law of the jurisdiction for decades. We truly are far past the point of what Thomas Jefferson warned about when judges arrogate absolute power to themselves — “the despotism of an oligarchy”.

But perhaps the worst thing is that this one single federal judge saw fit to ignore two specific Supreme Court decisions that explicitly upheld the authority of legislatures to limit abortions to doctors only ( Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Mazurek v. Armstrong). It is clear that in the eyes of the Imperial Judiciary, no law regulating abortion is safe from being erased, no matter how old or sensible it might be, and no matter how unambiguous the judicial precedent. A long time ago, in dissenting from a Court decision that eviscerated the First Amendment to protect abortion clinics, Justice Antonin Scalia said this: “Today’s decision… makes it painfully clear that no legal rule or doctrine is safe from ad hoc nullification by this Court when an occasion for its application arises in a case involving state regulation of abortion” ( Madsen v. Women’s Health Center).

Many pro-lifers hold on to a cherished belief that if only people knew the truth about what abortion really is, they will change their heart and mind and reject it. That truth was on display in Times Square for all to see. Christine Quinn and other abortion advocates are able to see that truth any time they want. Federal judges, too, are not barred from finding the truth.

But ignorance and arrogance are very deeply seated in the contemporary legal and political ideology. We must remember that “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). Cardinal John O’Connor, the great pro-life hero, was very wise in saying that when it comes to the pro-abortion mindset, we need to heed the words of Jesus about why the Apostles could not cast our a particular demon: “this kind never comes out except by prayer and fasting” (Mt 17:21).

So we must keep proclaiming the truth about the reality of abortion and of the humanity of unborn human beings. But we must also pray and fast for a spiritual renewal and conversion of heart for those who are in the grips of the demonic pro-abortion ideology that has produced so much ignorance and arrogance — and that has cost so many lives.

The Crisis — Causes, Effects, and an Answer

May 1st, 2019

Two recent events have once again brought the issue of clerical sexual abuse to the forefront here in the Archdiocese. The first is a source of great sadness and anguish. The second is the source of indispensable wisdom about the causes and effects of sexual abuse in our Church.

The List

The first event is release of the list of 120 Archdiocesan clergy who were either (a) credibly accused of sexually abusing a minor or possessing child pornography, or (b) the subject of a claim that our Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) considered eligible for compensation.

The distinction between the two categories is important. Some of the clergymen on the list whose cases where our independent lay Review Board found that an allegation was credible and substantiated. It’s essential to note that neither the Review Board nor the IRCP is a court of law, they’re not bound by the evidence rules under civil or criminal law, and – most important – in the case of many of the IRCP cases the clergymen were either dead or already out of ministry and thus did not have the opportunity to defend themselves.

This list has gotten a lot of attention. And it will not be the last bit of bad news that we hear – far from it. But some very important facts haven’t gotten enough attention. No clergyman is currently in service who has had a credible allegation of child sexual abuse. The vast majority of the cases are old – most occurred between the 1960’s and the early 1990’s. There have been no credible claims against a clergyman who was ordained since the Bishops’ Charter was adopted in 2002. And we have only had two credible cases since 2002, although there are two others that are still pending in the criminal justice system. We have clearly been successful in mitigating the damage and risk.

Still, even one case is too many, and we have devoted enormous resources to preventing any further offenses and responding appropriately to any new allegations. Failure is simply unacceptable.

There is one thing that is particularly significant about this list, something that is missing from it – the victims. Behind the name of each one of the clergymen on that list there are victims, in some cases only one, but in other cases many. Over 350 victims received compensation from the IRCP, and there are more who never applied. Each one of those victims was betrayed, desecrated, violated and assaulted by one of the men on the list. The effect on them, their pain and suffering, and in many cases the destruction of their lives, cannot be adequately reflected in any list. Someone said to me recently that they feel sorry for the clergymen whose names are on the list. I understand that sentiment, but my primary sympathy is for the men and women whose names will never be revealed, who have suffered and continue to suffer in silence and anonymity.

Pope Emeritus Benedict 

The other recent event is something that should get much more attention, because it gets directly at the heart of the causes and effects of the scandal – an article written by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on “The Church and the scandal of sexual abuse”.  This provides the key to understanding the deeper significance of the list and of the entire contagion of sexual abuse. It also shows us the way to hope out of this darkness.

Benedict identifies a number of key causes that led to the scandal. First and foremost, he finds its roots in the 1960’s in the sexual revolution:

… in the 1960s an egregious event occurred, on a scale unprecedented in history. It could be said that in the 20 years from 1960 to 1980, the previously normative standards regarding sexuality collapsed entirely, and a new normalcy arose…. Among the freedoms that the Revolution of 1968 sought to fight for was this all-out sexual freedom, one which no longer conceded any norms.

This is undeniably true, as anyone who lived in the 1960’s and 1970’s could attest. The traditional morality that insisted on the link between sex and marriage, and sex and procreation, was swept away and replaced with a new mindset in which sex was merely a form of entertainment for which the only ethical rule was consent. And, as Benedict points out repeatedly, once the traditional moral standards were eliminated, there was nothing to stop some people from justifying sex with minors.

The second key cause was the internal collapse of Catholic moral theology, which had traditionally been rooted in Scripture and natural law, and which held firmly to the doctrine that there are some acts that are never morally acceptable. This was also swept away by academic theologians, bishops, and poorly formed priests who instead held to a morality that in effect served as a permission slip to sin. This was further facilitated by a rejection of the authority of the Church to pronounce definitive doctrines on matters of morality. Benedict says,

In the end, it was chiefly the hypothesis that morality was to be exclusively determined by the purposes of human action that prevailed. While the old phrase “the end justifies the means” was not confirmed in this crude form, its way of thinking had become definitive. Consequently, there could no longer be anything that constituted an absolute good, any more than anything fundamentally evil; (there could be) only relative value judgments. There no longer was the (absolute) good, but only the relatively better, contingent on the moment and on circumstances.

In other words, anything could be considered morally acceptable under the “right” circumstances and with the “right” motives. It is easy to see where this leads – to a regime of no rules, of “anything goes”, where everyone is the ultimate judge of what is good and evil, and where “the Church should stay out of the bedroom”. Of course, once authentic morality is pushed “out of the bedroom”, any kind of sexual act becomes justifiable, including sex with minors.

According to Benedict, this corrosive anti-morality was conveyed to priests in flawed seminary formation and reinforced by bishops who “rejected the Catholic tradition as a whole and sought to bring about a kind of new, modern ‘Catholicity’ in their dioceses”. Does anyone seriously doubt that this happened? One of the major initiatives of the papacies of Popes John Paul and Benedict was to push back against the “dictatorship of relativism” and to restore authentic Catholic moral doctrine – that was the purpose of the great encyclical Veritatis Splendor.

Benedict then shines a light on the heart of the matter. While speaking of the effort to make changes in the Canon Law to permit better enforcement of its criminal law in cases of abuse of minors, he says this:

In fact, it is important to see that such misconduct by clerics ultimately damages the Faith. Only where faith no longer determines the actions of man are such offenses possible…. A society without God – a society that does not know Him and treats Him as non-existent – is a society that loses its measure. In our day, the catchphrase of God’s death was coined. When God does die in a society, it becomes free, we were assured. In reality, the death of God in a society also means the end of freedom, because what dies is the purpose that provides orientation. And because the compass disappears that points us in the right direction by teaching us to distinguish good from evil…. Why did pedophilia reach such proportions? Ultimately, the reason is the absence of God.

Of course this is true. Nobody can legitimately and truly believe in God, and know and love him in their heart, and commit such heinous acts.

The loss of God can be seen vividly, Benedict argues, in the lack of reverence for the Eucharist and a lack of understanding of the true nature of the Church. For many, the Eucharist is treated as a mere ceremony to mark family events, without any sense of the Real Presence of Christ – body, blood, soul and divinity – in the Blessed Sacrament. The lack of reverence for the Body of Christ cannot help but lead to a lack of respect for the image of God that is in the body of every human being.

Likewise, the Church is seen only as a political apparatus that can be re-made by us into whatever we wish. Benedict sees the falsehood in that view: “The crisis, caused by the many cases of clerical abuse, urges us to regard the Church as something almost unacceptable, which we must now take into our own hands and redesign. But a self-made Church cannot constitute hope.” This, he argues, is the agenda of the Evil One, who wants to lead us away from God – by considering the Church as purely a human entity created for human ends that is thoroughly corrupted by the evil acts of some of her members. This message of despair causes people to look at the list of offenders, reject the Church and turn away from God. That road leads to destruction.

The Answer

Benedict offers a solution to the problem. It isn’t a pragmatic program, agenda for legal reform, or bureaucratic structure. As such, it won’t satisfy anyone who sees the problem of clerical sexual abuse as purely a human phenomenon. All those things are vitally important but they aren’t sufficient. Benedict offers instead a response that gets to the real root causes:

It is very important to oppose the lies and half-truths of the devil with the whole truth: Yes, there is sin in the Church and evil. But even today there is the Holy Church, which is indestructible. Today there are many people who humbly believe, suffer and love, in whom the real God, the loving God, shows Himself to us. Today God also has His witnesses (martyres) in the world. We just have to be vigilant in order to see and hear them….

Today’s Church is more than ever a “Church of the Martyrs” and thus a witness to the living God. If we look around and listen with an attentive heart, we can find witnesses everywhere today, especially among ordinary people, but also in the high ranks of the Church, who stand up for God with their life and suffering.

There are many who will look at the list of offenders and despair. But the true response to the list and to the crisis in general is instead one of hope. God offers us, through his Church, all we need to deal with both the causes and effects of this terrible scandal of sin. Prayer for and with those who suffer, the intercessory help of our Blessed Mother and the saints, acts of reparation, devotion to Divine Mercy, and above all the sacraments, particularly the Eucharist – all these will help us to be witnesses to the great goodness of God, to reject all the lies of the Evil One, and to purify the Bride of Christ so that nobody will ever suffer from abuse again.

New York’s Death March

April 12th, 2019

In the past few months, the Governor of New York State has been leading our state ever more deeper into the Culture of Death. It began, of course, with the passage of the radical abortion expansion law in January, which legalized abortion for any reason throughout pregnancy and removed any legal protection for babies born alive accidentally during the course of a late-term abortion.

Now, the Governor has announced that he believes that physician-assisted suicide should be legalized. On the radio, he said “I say pass the bill. It’s a controversial issue. It’s a difficult issue. But it would need legislation. … I think it is a situation we have to address, definitely.”

Back in 1994, the Task Force on Life and the Law, appointed by the Governor’s father, evaluated and rejected the idea of legalizing assisted suicide. Among the reasons they gave were some prophetic warnings about the dangers to the most vulnerable among us:

“In light of the pervasive failure of our health care system to treat pain and diagnose and treat depression, legalizing assisted suicide and euthanasia would be profoundly dangerous for many individuals who are ill and vulnerable.  The risks would be most severe for those who are elderly, poor, socially disadvantaged, or without access to good medical care….

“No matter how carefully any guidelines are framed, assisted suicide and euthanasia will be practiced through the prism of social inequality and bias that characterizes the delivery of services in all segments of our society, including health care.  The practices will pose the greatest risks to those who are poor, elderly, members of a minority group, or without access to good medical care.”

These structural problems in the American medical system have certainly not been corrected in the years since the Task Force’s report.  Studies consistently show that disparities exist in access to and quality of healthcare across numerous demographic categories, particularly race, sex, socioeconomic status, and geographic location. These inequities are exacerbated by the economic pressures of the current medical system, where cost containment is a priority.

The people who will be at the greatest risk will be isolated elderly people, people with disabilities, and those with mental illness. In fact, the strongest opponents of legalizing assisted suicide come from the disability community, who see clearly that it would stigmatize them, send a message that their lives are not worth living, and result in pressure for them to take their lives. We should listen to their voices – just visit the website of the group Not Dead Yet and you will hear them loud and clear. They rightly fear that they will be the “collateral damage” of the legalization of assisted death.

We also need to pay attention to what is happening right next door to us, in Canada, where assisted suicide and euthanasia have already been legalized. Here are a few of the most recently-reported examples:

  • In Canada, there was an overall 50% increase in assisted deaths in 2018, with 1.5% of all deaths coming in that way.
  • In Ontario, the number of euthanasia deaths have skyrocketed even more, increasing by 78% in 2018 and 50% in 2017.
  • Canada has seen widespread violation of supposed safeguards, including unreported assisted deaths, killing of people who did not satisfy legal standards for euthanasia, etc. This is similar to the experience in Holland and Belgium, where there have been rampant violations of safeguards and no enforcement actions.
  • In a great majority of cases in Ontario, the assisted death was done by a doctor who had no prior relationship with the patient.

And we need to listen to the advocates for legalization, to see how radical their positions really are.

  • A proposed bill in Delaware was actually opposed by pro-assisted suicide advocates because it had too many patient protections in it. Those unacceptable provisions included the patient being 21 years old, having the terminal diagnosis be confirmed by a completely independent doctor, requiring that the patient have a mental health evaluation, and a tight definition of what constituted a “terminal” diagnosis.
  • The Delaware bill would also have re-defined assisted suicide as “palliative care”, an Orwellian distortion of a term that really means (according to the World Health Organization) treatment to ease symptoms but that affirms life and will not directly cause death.
  • A Connecticut bill that (like the bill pending in New York) would require the doctor to lie on the death certificate, raising opposition from law enforcement agencies that were concerned that the provision would prevent any investigation into whether the patient was murdered.
  • A New Mexico bill that would allow someone other than the patient to administer the deadly drugs, permit assisted suicide based solely on mental health conditions, allow prescription of the drugs by non-doctors and without seeing the patient in person but by “telemedicine” (talking to them over the internet).
  • A Minnesota bill that would violate religious and conscience rights by requiring doctors to refer patients for assisted suicide.
  • Repeated statements by assisted suicide advocates that oppose safeguards by calling them “barriers”, confuse the issue by using euphemisms like “medical aid in dying”, and routinely speak of how they intend to expand eligibility for assisted suicide with a goal of legalizing direct euthanasia.

The reality is that we are talking about murder by doctor. And there are no safeguards that can protect vulnerable patients from being exploited or mistreated. There is no way to change the inevitable message of these bills – that some lives are not worth living and that suicide is a legitimate option for people who have mental illnesses or disabilities.

The Governor is taking us down a very dark path. Instead of promoting death for the weakest and most vulnerable citizens, our government should be strengthening their legal protections and improving their access to quality health care. Our state is on a death march, and we must do all we can to change its course.

Will Congress Make Some People More Equal than Others?

March 27th, 2019

A bill was introduced earlier this month in Congress that is deceptively called “The Equality Act” (H.R. 5 / S. 788). It is the latest and most robust version of bills that have been kicking around in Congress for many years. Its ostensible purpose is to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the list of protected categories under federal civil rights laws. Its effect will be to make Christians and others who adhere to traditional sexual beliefs into second-class citizens.

Certainly, every human person must be protected against unjust discrimination. This is a bedrock principle of human rights, and it has continually been upheld by the Church for many, many years. Specifically with regard to homosexual persons, the Church could not be clearer: “They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2358).

But, despite its name, this bill will actually go much further than eliminating unjust discrimination in housing, education and employment. It is specifically designed to suppress the rights of religious people and institutions who dare to dissent from current progressive sexual dogma. This is done by one small section of the bill, which states “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (42 U.S.C. 2000bb et seq.) shall not provide a claim concerning, or a defense to a claim under, a covered title, or provide a basis for challenging the application or enforcement of a covered title.”

This is an astonishing provision to find in a proposed federal law. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed by a virtually unanimous Congress, establishes that the federal government may not take any action that substantially burdens religious beliefs and practices unless there is a compelling reason and the offending action is done in the narrowest possible way. It was passed specifically to protect unpopular religions from oppression by majorities. But since 1993, society has changed dramatically, and it is no longer fringe religions like Santeria or Native American faiths that are unpopular with the powers-that-be. Now, its mainstream orthodox Christianity that is out of favor, particularly anyone who adheres to the traditional teachings of our faith about sex and sexuality.

By including this provision, the Equality Act would stigmatize and penalize any Christian who still believes that God made man and woman in His own image and likeness, that the differences between the sexes are significant and normative, and that morally acceptable sexual behavior is only between a man and a woman in the bonds of marriage. No matter how sincere your religious beliefs, no matter how severe the burden imposed on you, no matter how trivial the government policy, no matter how meritless the discrimination claim, you would never be able to assert your religious freedom as a defense if this bill passes. I’m not sure that there has ever been a single instance in American history in which such a fundamental right as religious liberty has been specifically eliminated by a federal statute. After all, a right without a remedy is no right at all – so if the Equality Act passes, it will effectively eliminate the right to religious freedom.

As for specifics about the kinds of harm that would be caused by this bill, in a letter to Congress, the US Bishops noted that it would:

  • Regulate thought, belief, and speech — It would compel people to conform to the new orthodoxy about sexuality or risk being sued for discrimination or creating a hostile environment. It will mandate inclusion of the new sexual orthodoxy in every training program in every workplace and school.
  • Hinder quality health care — It would require health professionals and institutions to perform medical procedures associated with “gender transition” that are objectively harmful, such as mutilation of genitals and hormone replacements. Catholic hospitals have already been sued over their refusal to maim patients because of their desire to change their “gender identity”.
  • Endanger privacy — Because there is no objective definition of “gender identity”, men and women would no longer be assured of personal privacy in traditionally sex-segregated spaces such as restrooms and locker rooms.
  • Threaten charitable services — It would force religious charitable agencies to either violate their principles or shut down. This is happening right now in Michigan to Christian adoption and foster care agencies, and it has happened in other locations as well.
  • Exclude people from various businesses, career paths and livelihoods — Professions like law, psychology and medicine will all be closed to those who do not wish to conform to gender ideology. Businesses will likewise be targeted to force conformity – just ask all those in the wedding industry who don’t want to participate in same-sex weddings and are being harassed by litigation or civil rights commissions.

In his great Memorial and Remonstrance,  James Madison made a powerful argument for religious freedom from any encroachment by the government. His words are worth quoting at length, because they embody the deep respect for the freedom of religions that was held by the Founders of our nation:

Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence. The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right… It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society…We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority.

Because if Religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the Legislative Body…The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.

Our government is now sliding towards a kind of totalitarianism on sexual matters, propelled by a tiny minority of people who have managed to gain the allegiance of a very powerful political party that now holds a majority in the House of Representatives. We are already living under such a regime here in New York, and this special interest group is seeking to extend it across the nation.

We need to be  very clear about the injustice this Equality Act is seeking to bring about. It is seeking to reduce Christians into second-class citizens whose rights are not to be respected when they conflict with those of the favored few. That is not equality at all, but tyranny.