Monday, September 19, 2005

Is Morality Generational or Innate?

The 22 year old was wholesome looking and a recent Catholic college graduate. He spoke with total confidence and knowledge about this mystery called “life.” He was fully aware, he said, of the difficulties that others may have had but he felt in complete control. He had his life all planned out disregarding the loving advice and concern of his parents and somewhat old fashioned friends. He sat in my office and with unshakeable élan described the blue print of his life. He had a “lover” to whom he was committing himself for life. He just knew that this was it. This was real. This was obviously for ever! As he spoke with typical inexperienced certitude, there was something troublingly “bland” about him with even a slight hint of trance

They met three months prior and were SO comfortable with each other. It was all so different from his awkward and dishonest attempts at heterosexual liaisons. They would be so happy together, traveling, surf boarding and eating at fantastic restaurants. He felt sheer bliss. Idealistic love was available for him. Physical pleasures were only part of his soaring delight. Finally and at last, he was “comfortable” in a relationship, sharing a common love.

The devastation of his parents was insignificant to him. It was regrettable but a mere temporary unpleasantness which would eventually evaporate when they realized how happy he was and how correct his decision was. After all if they really loved him, they would rejoice in his happiness. It would take a little time but with some patience on his part, they would come around to his view and accept his life “partner”. They would get over it. As would his siblings and their children. He was astonished that they thought there was something “bad” about gay living! But, again, after all, they were from another generation while his generation is more liberated and enlightened and which, of course, knows that homosexual love is basically the same as heterosexual love. Values and attitudes change, he said, and he was living in modern times. His parents and others simply have to accept that fact. (Obviously, this unreal infatuation state of being is not limited to the homosexual world. It has been repeated endlessly and historically in the heterosexual world as well.)

His sole reason in meeting with me was to placate his parents who, broken hearted, hoped that I would be able to persuade him to delay his decision. To them living the gay life was unnatural, toxic and sinful. Their profound love for him was the very reason for their suffering—they saw him, their very flesh and blood, seriously considering a self destructive life. For my part, I found a young man totally brainwashed. He would not even consider views different from his own. He was completely closed minded. He spoke only to those who held views similar to his. In his mind, there was no other option. No other way. Hard statistics on the failures of gay unions were brushed aside as irrelevant. Clinical experiences were discounted in the light of the decline in heterosexual marital stability. That he would be excluded from the Eucharist was passed over quickly and easily because his Progressive minded priest mentors had implied that “God understands”---and besides his love for his partner would compensate, should there be any ritual deprivation. The Church, he claimed was not “with the times” and one could confidently anticipate that future thinking would ultimately coincide with his own. Today’s Catholics, if they are current, think for themselves and decide what is right and wrong. They are freed from the priest culture of previous times. So, the thinking goes.

The basic point for him is that notions of right and wrong are generational. His own generation has different values and the older less enlightened one really has to come to terms with the modern realities. There is no such thing as eternal or perennial morality. Everything changes. Shades of Heraclitus and his “everything is in flux” theory. Whatever happened to Parmenides and his theory of permanence? Where is the balance between permanence and change we so ardently desired? Some things never change. Some things do. And there is a gray moral area. Perhaps, it takes maturity and good sense to know the difference and nuance implied in the famous Serenity prayer “Let me know the difference”. The sports writer, Ray Kerrison, once wrote semi-jocosely that when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, He reminded His man on earth that these Laws were forever and would not expire in 2005. Some things never change even though adaptation and progress often occur.

Alleged motivations are commonplace with human beings. There is more here than the eye can see. This is not merely intellectual confusion. This is a huge emotional problem which is not solvable by logic or facts. Nor is it easy to face. This young man hungers for something he believes is unavailable to him but which he “illusions” can be gained by perversion. He has to rationalize in order to go ahead with his tragic plan.

However, the superficial and sad approach to life described above is not limited to naïve and inexperienced young people. I have a priest client from “ somewhere” who is 66 years old, is deeply loved by his people and who is profoundly addicted to male “porno” on his computer. His addiction is progressive which factor contributes to the noticeable decline in the spiritual life of his parish. A parish employee who discovered the “secret” by accident, properly and lovingly confronted the priest who instantly denied any knowledge of the origin of these “data”, claiming that some one else must have done it. It was the old Genesis game of “passing the buck.” Some one else is to blame. I am innocent. Meanwhile, the priest is doctrinally orthodox and is the Chaplain for the regional Courage apostolate, a National movement to help homosexual Catholics strive for the mandated virtue of Chastity. He seemed to have two faces, one for the Parish and one for his secret vice.

Further information and data, however, revealed his deep enmeshment in this sick and perverted behavior. He would spend up to five hours engrossed with the “enchantment” even seeking on line membership in some kind of organization giving him access to young males.

In a discussion with his employee, he insisted that there are far more serious affronts to God’s will than mere sexual lapses. It was the tired centuries old game of rationalization. He listed the usual litany of intolerance, racism, social injustice, sexism and homophobia. I have heard so many patients argue that this sexual behavior is necessary to relieve sexual tension. It is not hurting anyone. (Shades of John Donne and his “No man is an island”) It relieves loneliness. It compensates for not having a wife. Everyone is doing it. We are more adult these days and have dropped the old time rigidity. We have new values and deeper understanding of human nature. And endless variations on the theme. The old attempt to ennoble the ignoble by justifying one evil by another.

Yet, way down deep in his soul, he knows that his behavior is evil, that he pollutes his priesthood, and that he betrays his people. He knows he distances himself from his God. Yet, he digs himself deeper and deeper into a vortex of misery. How did this ever happen?

In the beginning, Intellectual seduction. The smart ones talk of “deconstructionism”, that there are no essences, that nothing really is absolute, that everything is relative and so on and so on. Some one holds that it is all right to so behave because…. well, just pick any reason. Anything will do. Little step by little step until, with repeated microbehaviors, one is hooked. It is now necessary to construct some kind of mental mechanism to justify what one really knows to be destructive.

The young 22 year old and the 66 year old are doing the same thing. They have been seduced by the demonic idea that morals change with the times. It is no longer necessary to struggle with inner conflict which no one finds desireable. We note that this is substantially different from Mores. In effect, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI sees this point with great clarity: i.e. the Burning issue of the times is the battle for Objective truth. He knows well, as do those of us of the Great Generation, that Relativism leads to Dachau.

The young man and the priest are terribly important in their own right but an even wider question arises. The survival of civilized living. Only a form of Christianity clear in its own beliefs and its system of authority will have the inner strength to stand up against such alien forces which are attempting to hijack or seduce the world. The two sad illustrations noted above are symptoms of what is brewing. Is there any wonder observant ones are concerned? May St. Michael, the enemy of Lucifer protect us!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Goodness of Catholic Priests

Recently, 43 good men, mostly Catholic priests and a few deacons, spent four days together in a seaside Retreat house in New Jersey, seeking a deeper relationship with their God and searching for better ways to serve His people. There were grizzled, wrinkled, battered veterans among them (one with an oxygen tank to keep him alive and a few others on canes to relieve the crippling pain of arthritis). There were young, wide eyed, “bushy tailed” rookie priests and still others in between.

As a participant-observer, I saw in them a touching, simple, direct piety which I rarely see. I watched these 43 good men, attentive and humble, as they listened to the presentations of a brother-priest, the “retreat master.” Uncritically, they gratefully drank in his words in their wish for an expansion and growth of their own priesthood. I watched them as they sat in the Chapel during their “free time”. Their reverence and devotion to their Eucharistic Lord was patent. There was no doubt as to their belief in the Real Presence of Jesus before them. The silence in that chapel, while profound, was deafening with the vibrations of Faith.

I saw one young priest kneeling before a huge outdoor crucifix, his eyes fixed on the image of Jesus, unembarrassed, utterly oblivious to his surroundings. The uncomplicated sincerity of this scene brought a ‘gulp” to my throat. I saw priests deep in contemplation, gazing out over the sea, with an invisible but plain sign saying “Don’t enter. Talking with God.” I saw others walking up and down the little boardwalk with their Rosaries dangling from their hands, petitioning Mary, the Mother of Christ, the Blessed Virgin and mother of priests for honesty and authenticity in the priesthood.

I listened to a former and successful radio announcer describe the “draw” to priesthood away from the phoniness and glitz of modern media. I listened to a former professional baseball player (and now a pastor) speak concretely and directly how the Lord called him from the diamond to the sanctuary. I listened to raspy, untrained but loving voices as they sang praise to Christ in the concelebrated Masses. I heard a young priest pray aloud that we might know how much we help Him to carry His cross by bravely carrying our own and uniting our pain to His.

Is it the Hand of God I felt when, immediately upon arrival, the mysterious “brother priest” bond became so palpable? Did I not feel this in every mission and hamlet I visited in Africa with any priest I met? African, Irish, English, Dutch, German, American, Spanish, any priest……? These men I had just met, fairly shrieked out a vibe that they knew that they were somehow special to God. Somehow I sensed that this self awareness could be shared in its fullness only with a brother priest.

There was, consequently, a refreshing absence of the New Age posturing of “We are all the same…” Collaterally, there was a unique kind of joy which is unlikely in a more heterogonous society. This joy was pervasive and unlike other gatherings I have attended. We could all afford, in this climate, to openly assent to Lumen Gentium (no. 8) with the Church’s distinction that Holy Orders confers a priesthood different from that of Baptism not only in degree but in kind. One could sense this self awareness even if it was seldom articulated. These men knew that Holy Orders conferred on them alone a special dimension of Christ’s own personal power. These priests were awed by what they are and humbly grateful for being chosen. In this pervasive climate there was no need for pretense or sex sensitive diplomacy. There was no pressure to placate the shrill voices of special interest groups.

The message streaming from the physical setup and the roster of the participants was apparent: “We are men set apart.” It is that very realization which clarifies the obligation to be holy and to be faithful and brave shepherds and leaders. The retreat climate, temporarily at least, freed these men of God from any fear of being called “elitists” because they know the truth, deep within themselves. Priests are different. During this retreat they were able not only to face the truth but to tell themselves that it is the Truth of Christ which ultimately and alone saves anyone. These men were able to be truly honest with themselves this week and to admit their deep inner conviction about being a priest. They admit that it is not basically doing that matters. It is basically being that matters. There is a Being about the Priesthood which is uniquely special. It is even ontological.

This brave and honest point they saw and admitted. They are Other Christs. And other Christs in a way only they possess. Let us be honest. Priests are broken, vulnerable vessels but they have a power no one else has. Does any one dispute this claim? The more a priest knows who he really is and what he really is, the more priestly, under God, he becomes. Being aware of the spiritual mark, the character, the “branding” is more conducive to real priesthood than all the techniques and mechanisms drummed up by ecclesiastical P.R. shills. Facial tics and body language are important to assess but more profoundly, even more pragmatically, it is primary to know “what happened to me when I was ordained.”

This “goodness” sample of the “43” might well be generally representative of the priesthood as a whole. The 4-8% of “evil” priests is saddening and serious but statistically minimal. I am tired of special interest lobbyists throwing in my face the infrequent example of the wayward Bishop or the thieving Monsignor or the predatory priest as if these were norms. Would that this frenetic critic had been at this retreat and had seen the true character of priests. Did he show the same zeal at the faults of Jewish and Protestant leaders? Or the abominable failures of teachers in the Public Schools? Why the gleeful rushing to publicize the occasional failure of Catholic clerics and not those of other groups? Is it because our failures are relatively rare? The Bishop of Bridgeport thought so, years ago, when the Thorn Birds made such a big splash. Bishop Curtis then noted: “It is sensational because it is so unusual. This does not apply to most priests.” The “43” say Amen to that. Perhaps there is some subtle and hidden agenda for the media. Envy or bigotry and evil? Who knows?

However, the Goodness which the “43” signify is the true norm of Catholic priests. By its own weight and power, this very goodness will defuse any attempt to defame Christ’s own priesthood. The street-wise Catholic knows this through the sensus fidelium (the instinct of the faithful). Despite the turbulence of public scandal, the Catholic Church will more than survive. For those who might unnecessarily worry, a little peek into a priests’ retreat (anywhere) will more than dissipate the negatives about our Priests. Goodness is from God and Goodness is overflowing in the Catholic Priesthood. You can bet on it.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

The Difference Between “Organized Religion” and Authentic Religion

The envelope addressed to me, marked personal and confidential, came from Vatican City with all kinds of official seals on it. With a bit of a cardiac tremor, I opened it and read the following opening line: “I am writing to you at the request of the Holy Father (Pope Paul VI)……..”

When the Pope was Cardinal Archbishop Montini of Milan, one of his dearest friends was an Italian Jewish intellectual named Max Ascoli. This intimate of the Pope emigrated to New York where he founded an influential and highly rated journal called The Reporter. In early l964, Max Ascoli, the darling of the Chic set, for some reason unknown to the New York Times, decided to become a Catholic.

He wrote to His Holiness in Rome requesting help in this matter and by a series of strange convolutions, I, the half-Jew, the dirty neck from San Juan Hill in New York City was “selected” for the challenging task of guiding this Intellectual Icon to the Baptismal font. With a faint and terrified heart, I recalled the story of G. K. Chesterton and his own Road to Rome. The intellectual giant of English literature, reportedly, knocked on the door of the local Church to request instruction and reception into the Catholic Church. The local priest, simple and relatively unlettered, was likewise “terrified” at the request of the great GKC and stammeringly suggested to the caller that it might be more appropriate to contact the prestigious Jesuit House not far away. After all, they are the elite of the Church, the scholars and luminaries. G.K. asked the little cleric whether or not he believed the same doctrines which the Jesuits did. Upon a predictable positive reply from the country priest, G.K. said “I want YOU to instruct me.” The rest is, as they say, history. God chooses the simple and the weak for His instruments, chosen not for their skills or charm but for His own Great Plan. I forthwith, enthusiastically accepted Max Ascoli as my “student.”

He came twice a week for his “lesson” arriving in a long, black chauffeured driven limo. He was very tall, leaned unsteadily on a cane, and assessed me up and down with his one good eye in a kind of Long John Silver style. He sat opposite me in my little office and lectured me with a rich and deep grasp of Catholic history and theology. Throughout his superb presentations he inserted the phrase “I love Chriiiiiiist”, said with unmistakable sincerity through his heavy Italian accent. Recognizing that he knew more Catholic theology than I would ever know, I shortened his “lessons” and baptized him in the great Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City.

Just after the ceremony, Max hugged me publicly in the Great Italian Embrasio and said for all to hear: “Father, you must excuse me. I am, Italian. I am anti-clerical.” His remark did not and does not upset me. I was, too, and am, on some levels, anti-clerical even though I am a cleric myself. This position is that of the Pope Benedict XVI variety who, as scholars are discovering, is in the Curia but not of the Curia. The distinction is significant. This Pope does not have the careerist logic which so many others cherish. Nor does he view life and the Church and religion primarily through the “prism” of curial politics or bureaucratic logic. Rather, he stands back and approaches life and problems objectively on the basis of genuine conversation with principles, not rigid preconceptions. This insight is taken from the recent book by John Allen Jr. called the Rise of Benedict XVI.

And its application can be enormously important for a balanced Catholic spirituality. I remember my extreme irritation in the Eternal City of Rome when a paunchy, sullen priest, in his food stained soutane and his ridiculous round hat, elbowed me in a crowded bus. I was nauseated by this “organized” religion symbol. I am angered by the arrogant, white cuffed clerical personnel of the various Bureaux (called Dycasteries in the Vatican) who dispense permissions and “favors” as if they were the Lords of some Medieval fiefdoms. I am sickened by the ambitious cleric who longs to wear the purple or some mark of “distinction” to prance around sanctuaries like a strutting popinjay.

Of course, I know of the homosexual priest who has used his exalted status to prey sexually on teen aged boys and of underdeveloped priests who have exploited naïve women. I know of drunken priests and power crazy priests and egotistical priests. I know lazy priests and ineffectual ones[1]. But I also know what Graham Greene describes in his classic book “The Power and the Glory. The Glory of Christ’s priesthood carried in weak vessels of clay, a priesthood which is powerful and beautiful and loving. Greene’s priest is a drunk who fathers a child, who wrings pesos out of poor peasants but who can offer the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass, absolve the sinner and teach people how to pray.

I knew a priest in the Balearics who was paid by the State. He was bored, lazy and empty and “did” the Mass mechanically because it was a job. He was despised by the local community which was largely uneducated and simple but hungering for a lively Faith and not getting It. They had religion. He had Organization. Anti-clerical? In this instance I certainly am. Yet, my religion teaches me that even he was a valid conduit of God’s Grace through the great Sacramental system provided by the Catholic Church Which I love and defend.

I know the Catholic Church has misceants, both clerical and lay. But I know this Church is the One of the Second Chance, the Church of mercy and forgiveness. It has been said that the Catholic Church is not a museum of saints but a clinic for sinners. The Church is not self absorbed, puffy, red faced clerics with piggy eyes. Nor is it the superficial uninformed “social” Catholic who might go to Mass on Sunday for human reasons. Perhaps there are hypocrites who go to Sunday Mass to “show off” their Couture or to exhibit how reverently they carry their Bibles like some Lens lice politicians. But without any rash judgment I know that there are scores of decent and honest Catholics who worship God and not organizations. Their reasons for attending Mass are honorable and adult.

I am aware of the “We are the Church” attitude wherein every shade and level of “Catholic” wants a share of the control and policies of the Church. Clearly, on some level this is true. On another, it is not. The Church is the Faith of History, articulated by the Pope, Christ’s Vicar. It is the Sacraments, the vital prayer life, the rich Catholic tradition and the confident dependence on the Holy Spirit Which has suffused and guided this Church for hundreds of years. This is authentic religion. It is about loving and obeying God. One honestly cannot blame religion if neurotics twist God’s love into hatred. How often I have heard the superficial remark that religion causes wars and holocausts. 9/11 was not caused by religion but by sick minds which distort and pervert. Sick accretions and narcissistic trappings belong to the “Organization” and not essentially to Christ’s Church. During the painful scandal exposures of 2002, Fr. Benedict Groeschel CFR, a noted and valiant champion of Catholicism, said that he would never defend the over bureaucratized offices of the Vatican but only Jesus. In effect, he distinguishes between the “organized Church” which can, at times be corrupt and the authentic Church. One cannot in conscience defend the indefensible. Don’t even try!

That some Archbishop in Ireland fathered a son and supported him for years with Church money or that some high ranking Monsignor in New York will imprudently squire a married woman around to his fancy summer home or that some ambitious Pastor will steal from Parish finances for his memberships fees in elegant Clubs angers and saddens me. But how can it affect my Faith? What have those things to do with my Belief system? Apart from my emotional distress, these things of the Organized Church have nothing to do with me. Those people have to answer to God for what they do. I have to answer for my own misdeeds, not theirs.

Of course, we are angered, enraged and feel betrayed by the sinful behaviors of leaders we have trusted. Yet, it seems hypocritical of the non-Church goers to gleefully point their fingers at human weakness as they, the accusers, now try to justify their own miscreant behavior which caused them to leave the Church in the first place. I don’t think it is cynical to recall the brilliant insight of Sigmund Freud and his highlighting the “alleged motivation” question. The human psyche will allege that the primary reason one acts as one does is a highly noble and rational one. For example, one might say: I leave the Catholic Church because of all the hypocrites in it and all the stupidity and the insensitivity of its leaders. However my real reason is that I am conflicted between the stringent requirements of the Church and my own desires for forbidden behaviors such as abortion, or homosexual lifestyle among others. A nice convenient emotional juggling act! But as it is with phonies in the Organized Religion Crowd so is it with the finger pointers . Hypocrisy and lying to oneself eventually come home to roost!

In the words of the old time talk show host, Jack Paar, “let’s be honest…” The motivations for evil behavior are not religious but psychological. The beautiful motivations of authentic religion do not lead to wars and persecution. Distorted and underdeveloped psyches do. Don’t preach to me about religious wars and the wild eyed shouting of Salem witch hunting ministers or clerics of the Inquisition or fiery incantations of Imams. Let us use our intellects and make distinctions. Authentic religion—let us support and practice it. Let us name distortion for what it is.

As for Max Ascoli. When he, the anti-clerical, was dying, he sent for me that he might receive the Sacrament of the Dying, then called Extreme Unction. He met his God as a truly religious man, fully believing in the Fullness of Revelation in Catholicism maintaining his autonomy as an educated, intelligent and adult man. Perhaps, the clue is that he was grown up and had no need to prolong adolescent rebellion. Max Ascoli, in the opinion of this Jewish, Irish, Catholic priest, is a credible model of imitation. I am delighted with the Catholic Faith and I do enjoy my freedom to be a rational anti-clerical.

[1] Or am I speaking of mankind in general? Might all groups of males be broken down in a similar way?

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

The Wall of Separation: The Myth and Hoax

Many times, my religious views and those of countless others, have been severely criticized for “violating” the Sacred Cow of the Wall of Separation between the State and Religion. The putdowns we receive are usually delivered with the solemn tone and somber mien of the schoolmaster admonishing the rebellious student. This is the end of the matter: no further discussion; no adult dialogue. When I, in my innocence, would ask where is such a separation described in the American jurisprudence, my Betters, with a pained smile, will lecture me about the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, Justice Hugo Black, gobbledy-gook legalese and pure hokum.

Meanwhile, Justice Rehnquist, a reasonably well schooled Constitutional Law scholar, writes:

“There is simply no historical foundation for the proposition that the Framers intended to build the 'wall of separation' that was constitutionalized in Everson… The 'wall of separation' between church and state is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.1”

If this is so, how does one explain the widespread belief in this existent Wall? Who advocates it? Where does it come from? Marc Levin, one of the more pre eminent of contemporary Constitutional lawyers, believes that the Myth has been based on a misreading of a short courtesy note written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1803. This note was written 14 years after the Amendment was passed by Congress. It has been noted that he was not an ideal source of contemporary history relative to the meaning of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment. He was not even in the United States when the Bill of Rights was passed by Congress.. He was living in France. Yet, the Critics still rely on Jefferson’s words to justify their opposition to almost any government intersection with religion.

In a sense, the King has no clothes on. The Freedom of exercise (of religion) clause clearly states that the government is prohibited from interfering with the people’s free exercise of their own religion. It also prohibits the establishment of a National church having in mind the Church of England whereby a formal union of political and ecclesiastical authority was put in the hands of the State. There was no prohibition against religion but against a Federal or National Church. It is laughable when secular spokesmen quote Jefferson and Madison, the two most secular in outlook, to bolster current hostility to religion. Historically, the widespread belief, at that time, was that Faith was a necessary predicate to liberty. We recall that it was Jefferson who wrote in the Declaration of Independence that all human beings have rights endowed, not by governments or monarchs, but by GOD

He also wrote “.. and can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only (emphasis added) firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are the gift of God?” And his colleague Madison, whose viewpoint is sometimes quoted as justification for “ separation”, wrote that “belief in God is essential to the moral order of the world.” What does it take to enlighten our modern American that opposition to an established church is not opposition to religion in general. How did this truism become so lost to the today’s secular minds? Madison further interpreted Free Exercise to mean no privileges and no penalties. 2 Interestingly, the very day after the First Amendment was proposed, the President was asked by Congressmen to issue a Thanksgiving to Almighty God for the blessings He had poured down upon them.3

What happened? How did viewpoints change so radically? How explain the contradiction between the history of the Republic with its clear intent and the modern near hostility to religion? The first 150 years of our history had multiple instances in which government monies were spent on sectarian religious causes. Note the considerable money spent on the Kaskasia Indians each year to support their Roman Catholic priests until 1897. However, in 1947, in the famous Everson v. Board of Education case, Justice Hugo Black started the Separation Question rolling. He wrote: “No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they are called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion.” “The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”4

Marc Levin thinks that the Everson case is an inherently flawed opinion. He points out that the absolutist position leads to absurd outcomes and quotes Bruce Fein (once deputy attorney general of the United States) to make the point. “Black seemed to sense the absurdity of his categorical prohibition, which would have required public ambulances to deny service to a cleric who suffered heart attack while preaching from the pulpit. Accordingly, he immediately retreated from his unbending stance----but without saying so.”5

Justice Rehnquist describes the intellectual mess of “separation” thusly:

“In the 38 years since Everson our Establishment clause, cases have been neither principled nor unified. Our recent opinions, many of them hopelessly divided pluralities, have with embarrassing candor conceded that the “wall of separation” is merely a “ blurred, indistinct, and variable barrier,” which is “ not wholly accurate” and can only be “ dimly perceived.” What has apparently happened according to Judge Robert Bork and others is that the Court has intervened not on constitutional grounds but because it wishes to dictate policy. Even some members of Congress, themselves, wrongly think of judges as policy makers.

It has been suggested that Black may have had more sinister reasons for his strange position. He was an ex-KKK member in the 1920s,a time when the Klan was fiercely anti Catholic. Hugo Black junior AND senior had negative feelings about the Catholic Church which they both suspected in the manner of Paul Blanshard whom they avidly read. The possibility of absurd conclusions (from the Black position) have surfaced many times. Note the 2000 Court decision on the prohibition of prayer before a football game on the basis of “the right not to feel uncomfortable.” Such nonsense now trumps the First Amendment’s guarantee of the free exercise of one’s religious feelings. Let us ask why so many Americans are displeased with Roe v. Wade after 30 years? One obvious reason is the dishonoring of the democratic choices of the people and the dishonoring of our basic religious rights. In the light of our democratic history and the clear will of the largely religious American populace, the contemporary meaning of this “wall” is absurd.

When human beings become driven by the absurd, they can contradict human nature itself. One might recall the tragic opinion of Roger Taney in Dred Scott v. Sanford in 1856.The humanity of slaves was denied in complete disregard of the more encompassing language of the Declaration of Independence which stated that “all men are created equal.” Such a conclusion derives from ignoring the very Natural Law of God Himself so enshrined in the Declaration. No one, in or out of office, can set himself above the Divine law. Incidentally, neither John Kerry nor Ted Kennedy should feign surprise when they are called upon by the Church to use their persuasive gifts, for example, to reduce the incidence of abortion ( a violation of both Divine and Natural law) and certainly not to be its propagandists.

Douglas Kmiec, Professor of Constitutional Law at Pepperdine University, points out that the tools of Interpretation are cerrtainly the Constitution, text, history and structure. But one must remember, with Lincoln’s insightful reflection, that the Constitution was framed for the philosophy of the of the Declaration, not the other way around. Government is instituted to insure our unalienable rights—which self evidently come from God. Kmiec believes as matter of original understanding there is nothing in the Constitution to discourage religious people from urging government to agree with their public policy agenda. Stephen Carter, the noted Professor of Law at Yale makes the same point in his powerful book, The Culture of Disbelief.

On the other hand, did anyone censure a New York Senator when he, in effect, told an Alabama nominee to the Court of Appeals, that he could not be eligible for the judgeship since he was such a believing Catholic? Does Article VI of the Constitution mean anything when it says: “No religious test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”? Dr. Charles Krauthammer, a noted physician columnist, noted after the insulting appraisal by the Senator, that henceforth no serious Catholic should ever be considered for a judgeship.

Whence the changes in religious freedom? We are told by fiery leftists that the Constitution is a living document which should be altered based on the preferences of individual judges in the light of NEW circumstances, like electronic wiretaps and the internet. But, Judge Stephen Markman, of the Michigan Supreme Court, tells us that our Constitution would be an historical artifact—a genuinely dead letter—if its original sense became irrelevant, to be replaced by the views of successive waves of judges and justices, who are intent on “updating” it with contemporary moral theory. Would such “flexibility”, deconstructionism and moral relativism feed even more into the obvious moral decay of our beautiful country? Is there any correlation between characterologic breakdown and the contemporary perception of “the wall of separation”? There are many concerned American thinkers who believe this to be true.

There is something perennial about truth and goodness and God. Secularist groups legitimately have their own agenda but the original American political theory enshrines permanent religious values in its own meaning. A startling evidence of this is the Washington monument which was topped, in 1888, by an aluminum cap with the words Laus Deo (praise be to God). On the 12th, 20th and 24th landings are biblical quotes and prayers carved into the stone. In 1848, a Bible was enclosed in the cornerstone, noting the moral direction and spiritual mood of America at that time. Even earlier, the Father of our country, George Washington, himself, with no apparent empathy with a Wall of Separation, prayed: “Almighty God, we make our earnest prayer that Thou will keep the United States in Thy Holy protection….”

To paraphrase Cicero, even the stones shout out! It is obvious that the secular King has no clothes on! The “Wall” is a myth and a hoax and, in the spirit of the late Justice Rehnquist, should be abandoned. Where is our modern Ronald Reagan who can eloquently shout: “Tear down that wall.” Can we hear the words of the Lord Himself? “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman guards in vain.” (Ps. 127).

I am old and tired but I love my country. I worry over it and pray for it. May the good God bless America and protect her from her own people!

1 Wallace v. Jaffree,472 U.S.38, 107
2 V. Munoz Establishing free exercise, First Things, Dec. 2003
3 Annals of Congress, 914 (1789)
4 everson v. bd. of ed. 330 US, 1,3 (1947_)
5 The Recorder Dec. 27. 1993