Monday, February 18, 2008

James Hitchcock on "Abortion and the Catholic Right"

"Abortion and the Catholic Right" by James Hitchcock. Human Life Review Spring 2007 -- a study of how the Catholic (re: "traditionalist") Right -- as represented by Joseph Sobran, Paul Likoudis and contributors to The Wanderer & The Remnant -- have been obsessed with their opposition to democratic-capitalism, "neoconservatives" and the Bush administration, to such an immense degree that they now hold the aformentioned issues as being "more pressing" than abortion -- even to the point of, in the case of The Wanderer, celebrating the defeat of Republican candidates.

Some food for thought / discussion:
The opposition of these conservative Catholics to the Bush administration has also led some of them to reject important pro-life allies. In their fierce denunciations of "neo-conservatives," Sobran and Likoudis ignore the fact that neo-conservatives, especially in the pages of their leading publication, The Weekly Standard, are among the few secular people enrolled in the prolife cause. TWS regularly publishes strong and highly intelligent articles against abortion, fetal-stem-cell research, euthanasia, assisted suicide, and other life issues, as well as against radical feminism and the homosexual movement. It is a moral conservatism that is not accidental, since "neoconservatives" are usually defined as people who became disillusioned with traditional liberalism on a variety of issues.

Similarly, Likoudis's dismissal of Santorum as merely a puppet of the White House and of a neo-conservative conspiracy impugned the integrity of a man who had been regarded as one of the most principled and effective Senate champions of traditional moral causes, and it is not at all clear whether Santorum was opposed primarily for his lapse in supporting Specter or for his heresy on other issues. Since his opponent was also pro-life, opposition to Santorum could be justified, but some of his Catholic critics implied that he had to be turned out of office without regard for the life issues.

Economics appears to be the engine that is now driving The Wanderer's stand on public issues, and establishing its priorities. Neither liberals nor conservatives, as those terms are understood in the U.S. today, represent classical Catholic social teachings. But since the U.S. is a predominantly capitalist country, the teachings criticizing capitalism appear more pertinent to our condition than do the teachings against socialism; so, to the degree that the Republican Party champions the free market, some Catholics draw the conclusion that it is in effect immoral to support Republican candidates.

While this is usually considered a liberal idea, in the pages of The Wanderer it has a conservative counterpart that is in many ways almost indistinguishable from the liberal position. The paper stops short of advising readers precisely how to vote in order to achieve true social justice, but its economic ideas seem logically to lead to the conclusion that only strong state action can overcome the plutocratic exploitation of the people, something that has been the premise of left-wing American politics since the 1890s. . . .

* * *
. . . Many, perhaps most, committed pro-lifers are former Democrats who were rejected by their party and found themselves welcomed by the Republicans. Most of those converts are probably not conservatives in a principled ideological way, so that their presence in the Republican ranks has the effect of helping facilitate the "betrayal" of conservative principles that Sobran and others decry.

Hard-core conservatives tend now to hearken back nostalgically to the days of Barry Goldwater, ignoring the fact the Goldwater turned out to be fanatically pro-abortion, as well as very liberal on most other social issues, something that gives pro-lifers little reason to want to be "true" conservatives. Sobran's way of dealing with the life issues can then be seen as the conservative counterpart to the liberals' "seamless garment"-an attempt to persuade pro-lifers to transcend their "narrow" outlook and support a wider agenda.

The widely held, apparently self-evident, assumption that the pro-life movement is the creature of the "religious Right" has blinded even most informed observers to the unexpected and intriguing fact that, for some on the Catholic part of "the Right," the life issues are no longer paramount, if they ever were.

James Hitchcock is a professor of history at St. Louis University, is the author of The Supreme Court and Religion in American Life (Princeton University Press, 2004).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

E. Michael Jones / John Sharpe's appearance at Catholic U. opposed by SPLC

Catholic University nixes lectures, by Julia Duin. Washington Times February 13, 2008:
Catholic University abruptly canceled an 11-part lecture series, "Building Catholic Communities," on Monday, after the Southern Poverty Law Center complained that two of the scheduled lecturers are anti-Semites.

The university released a statement yesterday saying the lecturers "appear to espouse views that are contrary to the mission and values of Catholic University. In light of this development, the dean of the school decided to cancel the lecture series," referring to Randall Ott, dean of Catholic's school of architecture.

Mark Potok, director of the SPLC's Intelligence Project, called the school to complain about the participation of E. Michael Jones, editor of the South Bend, Ind.-based Culture Wars magazine, and John Sharpe, founder of the Norfolk-based IHS Press and the Legion of St. Louis, an Internet-based forum.

"We were surprised that Catholic University was allowing two raging anti-Semites on their campus," said Mr. Potok. "A simple Google search will show you the frightening ideology of these men."

"These are not the Latin Mass traditionalists," Mr. Potok said. "These are the people who reject Vatican II reforms. They are out of [actor Mel Gibson's father] Hutton Gibson's world, in saying that the Jews are destroying the world."

Some thoughts:

  • The prospect of "building Catholic communities" as a bulwark against secular culture (and presumably along with it the distributist theories of Chesterton and Belloc) seems innocuous enough. However, given John Sharpe's questionable ideological ties and views on the Jews (as one might gather from past online investigations), together with E. Michael Jones' own contributions, I agree that Catholic University of America is right to be cautious about the involvement of these men with any project.
  • That said, I also think the Southern Poverty Law Center -- being inexperienced in the doctrinal nuances of Catholicism and what constitutes "traditionalist Catholicism" -- really does more harm than good in addressing these matters, in that they tar 'traditionalist Catholics' with a wide brush. Not every "traditionalist Catholic" -- even those within the SSPX -- need be necessarily equated with its worst anti-semitic elements.
  • Many questions here: One being the question of academic freedom and whether a controversial figure with questionable views on the Jews ought to be permitted to speak on a topic other than that involving the Jews? To what lengths does "academic freedom" extend? (The same questions might pertain to Columbia University's invitation to Iranian president to address their university when he visited New York, with his own questionable background).
  • Another question: should Catholic University have done its homework on vetting those speakers at a conference before agreeing to be its host? Instead of cancelling at the last minute in such a manner as to appear to be "the lapdog to the SPLC"?
  • Another question: is it hypocritical of Catholic University to take this measure against figures deemed anti-semetic and not to do likewise with promoting (or hosting) other speakers/productions with anti-Catholic elements? (Georgetown Law School now funds student internships at abortion rights groups, and the controversial “Vagina Monologues” has been performed (or approved) on more than 100 Catholic campuses, including Notre Dame).
  • In his response to the fiasco (Anti-Semitism and Thought Control at Catholic University Culture Wars April 2008), E. Michael Jones remarks:
    When CUA president Daniel M. O’Connell meets with Notre Dame professors in private, he likes to brag about how orthodox and Catholic his university is in comparison to theirs. However, the recent cancellation of the Building Catholic Communities lecture series at CUA shows that there is no essential difference between these universities when it comes to compromising both academic freedom and the Catholic character of the university when subjected to pressure by groups like the SPLC. Father O’Connell, in fact, espouses what might be called the Jenkins doctrine of academic freedom: Vagina Monologues, Si! Oberammergau, No!

    The doctrine gets its name from the hapless president of Notre Dame University, Rev. John Jenkins, CSC, who as one of his first acts in office articulated a position on academic freedom which would allow the performance of the obscene Vagina Monologues but would ban a performance of the Oberammergau Passion Play. Which group thinks that obscenity is a protected form of expression but Passion Plays are not? If you’re answer to that question was the Jews, you have come a long way toward understanding how commissars like Mark Potok can impose Jewish forms of political correctness on Catholic institutions like CUA and Notre Dame. In his book, The Jewish Century, Yuri Slezkine opined that in becoming moderns we had all become Jewish. The same verdict applies a fortiori to Catholic academe in America. Combine the internalization of Jewish values that Slezkine mentioned, as manifested in the mind of John Jenkins, with the normal intellectual cowardice that one finds in Catholic academics and administrators, and you will find a situation where Catholics are eager to denounce other Catholics in a way that would make Stasi informers blush with shame.

    So, it would appear that according to E. Michael Jones (who insists "there is nothing anti-Semitic about anything I have ever said"), 'dem Jews are really to blame after all?
  • It does nothing to bolster Jones' case when forum posters, rushing to his defense, proclaim: ""Southern Poverty Law Center is a communist jew organization. That guy who runs it name Morris Deed is a Jew. Most likely this is another arm of the ADL" (and when the same forum thread -- predictably -- degenerates into a discussion of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion).