|Tea Party Catholics|
|Lettin' Freedom Ring!|
Christopher A. Ferrara
|REMNANT COLUMNIST, New Jersey|
(Posted 04/15/09 www.RemnantNewspaper.com) This commentary will take a critical look at what I call the Tea Party circuit and its celebrity opponents of the Obama regime, including Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Ron Paul, and Catholics such as Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and certain lesser lights of the “Catholic libertarian” persuasion who call themselves traditionalists. I will argue that this political coalition, which willingly confines itself to the morally relativistic framework of post-Enlightenment liberalism, is unable to address the civilizational crisis of radical evil with the necessary radical defense of the good, which is really only possible on the basis of the law of the Gospel and what the Magisterium of the Catholic Church calls the Social Kingship of Christ.
Let me note at the outset, however, that I happen to like Mark Levin, whose devastating mockery of “Obama the Magnificent” I find quite delightful. Even Rush Limbaugh, with his often painfully pompous grandstanding, has had some bracingly sharp commentary to offer of late. As far as Ron Paul is concerned, he does have an appealing “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” kind of sincerity that distinguishes him from the cunning hollow men of the Beltway. What is more, Paul deserves a great deal of credit for his consistent opposition to Washington’s insane war policy and its uncritical defense of every action by Israel in the endless Mideast conflict in which America has disastrously embroiled itself.
Nor can these and the many other prominent non-Catholic commentators speaking out against the Obama regime be expected to advance the Social Kingship as the only remedy—which indeed it is—for America’s increasingly apocalyptic decline. I have noted elsewhere that even a movement of conservative Protestants in the 1870s called in vain for the Constitution’s preamble to be amended to declare that “Almighty God [is] the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ [is] the Ruler among the nations, [and] his revealed will [is] the supreme law of the land.” After another 140 years of spiritual decomposition in the pluralist “melting pot,” however, it does not appear that there is any strain of Protestantism in America that still exhibits such an appreciation of the Social Kingship.
But it must be stressed that, for what they are, the non-Catholic celebrity opponents of the Obama regime are still far better than nothing. At the very least they serve the useful function of undermining Obama’s credibility, deflating his messianic pretensions, sowing widespread public discontent with his socialist economic program, and perhaps even limiting on an ad hoc basis the amount of damage he can cause. It is for that very reason I advocated voting for John McCain as a stopgap to delay what we are seeing now: a massive breakthrough for the American far-Left, and a corresponding acceleration of America’s descent into “utter barbarism,” to quote Orestes Brownson’s prophesy concerning the fate of this nation in the absence of Catholic social order. In view of the first hundred days of Obama’s presidency, it is not rationally possible to continue to maintain that it made no morally compelling difference whether he or McCain was elected.
Yet while the non-Catholics among these celebrities might have an excuse for ignorance concerning what really ails this nation and imminently threatens to destroy it, the Catholics have none. Hence the title of this essay, and the point to which I shall return. But first some remarks about a new stage in the development of what passes for conservatism in America.
The Lucrative Opposition
Something occurs to me that I am sure has occurred to other Catholic observers of current events. Isn’t it rather paradoxical that the “take back America” movement has become a huge cash cow for its celebrity leaders? Should it not give us pause that as they trumpet their indignation about the loss of “liberty,” “the trampling of the Constitution” and the “betrayal of the vision of the Founding Fathers,” they are raking in piles of dough from media commentary and best-selling books with glossy cover art whose release was perfectly timed to capitalize on peak fear over the election of Obama and the economic “meltdown”?
Just what are the grievances of these upscale, latter-day Sons of Liberty, who enjoy a level of prosperity in the very midst of the “meltdown”—and in large measure because of it—that 98% of Americans could never hope to achieve even if the federal government vanished tomorrow? When they speak of “Liberty and Tyranny,” to quote the title of Levin’s #1-best-selling-blockbuster-that-everyone-must-read-to-understand-what-is-really-going-on-in-America, what do they mean by those words? By liberty do they mean man’s freedom to attain the good, including the ultimate good of eternal beatitude, which is all that really matters in the end? By tyranny do they mean the destruction of the moral order at all levels of government by electoral majorities and civil authorities that consider themselves unbound by either the divine or the natural law?
Hardly. Read their best-sellers and listen to their commentaries and rah-rah speeches before adoring crowds at places like CPAC, and you will learn that by liberty they mean essentially property rights and individual autonomy, and that by tyranny they mean government interference with property rights and individual autonomy. Everything else is a matter of “personal” morality or preference on which reasonable people can politely disagree in keeping with the American Way.
So, “taking back America” has nothing to do with restoring the moral order on which Americans cannot agree. Rather, it involves an assortment of common-denominator pocketbook issues that are valid so far as they go, but have been old news since the 1970s: Stop gargantuan federal spending. Abolish the income tax. Eliminate federal agencies and regulations. Shut down the Federal Reserve. Do away with “fiat money” and restore the gold standard. Stop the tide of immigrants who take our jobs. Let the “free market” be even freer, so that Americans can have even more things than they have already.
Funny, but aside from the libertarians who are least consistent in their fixations, these new Sons of Liberty did not seem to perceive any burning urgency about the very same issues during the Reagan years, when the federal government grew relentlessly, or during the Bush years, when the federal deficit ballooned to record levels because of the staggering cost of that criminal fraud on the American people known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. But ever since Obama was elected, the spokesmen for these issues have been playing the role of fiery patriots standing up to fearful despotism, even as the royalties pour into their bank accounts from the wallets of the overtaxed: Buy my book. Go to the freedom concert. Let freedom ring! Cha-ching.
Although the great majority of these celebrity patriots profess to be Christians of one sort or another, not a word do they have to say to their public about the real reason America and all of Western civilization is “tottering to its fall,” as Pope Pius XI warned in 1925: that post-Christian Western man, perfectly exemplified by Barack Obama, has rebelled against Christ the King.
Welcome to the Tea Party
In recent days a loose confederation of conservatives/neo-conservatives, libertarians and even some “Blue Dog Democrats” has been promoting the “National Tea Party” movement that is supposed to represent the newest and most daring response to federal tyranny, but is actually a series of publicity stunts to solicit support for the same old “conservative”/libertarian causes. The idea is to stage “Tea Parties” all over the country on Tax Day and thereafter to demonstrate just how darned angry the tea partiers are about the way things are going money-wise and autonomy-wise. Hannity addressed the showcase Tea Party in Atlanta on April 15.
These are metaphorical Tea Parties, mind you, with not even token acts of civil disobedience to protest perceived injustice. Instead, one can indulge in the perfectly legal exercise of mailing a tea bag to Washington, D.C. And millionteabags.org is there to help: “For $1.00 we will send a tea bag on your behalf, and you can be a part of this historic event!” Will that be Lipton or Tetley? The Tea Party organizers have no intention of doing anything that could actually get them into legal trouble with the President and Congress. One must not take this Liberty business too far. For the tea partiers know that when the Founders gave us the “rule of law” the age of revolution ended, and the age of obedience to the divinely inspired government the Founders created began. As the sainted Father of Our Country admonished his subjects in his Farewell Address: “This government… has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty…. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.”
Now of course Catholics believe in the duty to obey civil authority in everything but sin, because all authority comes from God. Our Lord Himself paid His taxes to Caesar. Hence our obedience to civil authority in America does not rest on the notion that “Liberty” requires it, but on the theological truth that God requires it. That is why Catholics do not engage in revolutions in the name of Liberty, although the Church imposes on them the duty to resist civil authority when it is a question of particular positive laws and other measures which contravene the divine or natural law. Even Martin Luther King recognized this Catholic truth when he declared in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’… An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.”
Our “glorious” revolutionary history, on the other hand, presents a curiously self-contradictory notion of obedience to civil authority, a notion rooted in the Protestant principle of private judgment. At first the radicals who led the American Revolution declared that Liberty required the total overthrow of King George and his horribly oppressive—just unbearable, really—royal tax on Bohea tea, not to mention the King’s intolerable quartering of royal troops in Boston in response to a few years of perfectly harmless rioting, arson and ransacking of homes; or, even worse, his granting of religious freedom to Catholics in Quebec. But once King George was out of the way, Liberty suddenly required strict obedience to President George and all his successors. Hence when the Whiskey Rebels balked at an even heavier federal tax on booze production imposed to pay off the national debt, Saint George personally accompanied the 15,000 militiamen he had called out as they marched over the Alleghenies to put down the rebels like dogs. The difference between the Whiskey Rebellion and the Civil War is that the Confederate rebels stood their ground instead of running away at the sight of all those federals with guns, which is why 600,000 Americans had to die to insure the obedience Saint George had obtained without firing a shot. A “new birth of freedom,” Saint Abraham called it. Let freedom ring!
Nor should we overlook the words and deeds of Saint Thomas, the veritable Apostle of Liberty. For it was Thomas Jefferson, the flogger of escaped slaves, whose First Inaugural Address called for “absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics” and whose dictatorial embargo on American shipping during the Napoleonic Wars employed federal troops to harass American citizens and confiscate their property under legislation the constitutional scholar Leonard Levy calls “the most repressive and unconstitutional… ever enacted by Congress in time of peace.”[i] An historian as sober as Samuel Eliot Morison notes that “George III and Lord North had been tender by comparison.”[ii] Let freedom ring!
Yet despite their dictatorial sins, Saint George, Saint Thomas and Saint Abraham are all reverenced today in the shrines erected to their blessed memory in Washington. The very ceiling of the Capitol Building rotunda is adorned with a fresco entitled The Apotheosis of Washington, which the federal government’s own website describes thus: “George Washington rising to the heavens in glory, flanked by female figures representing Liberty and Victory/Fame….The word ‘apotheosis’ in the title means literally the raising of a person to the rank of a god…”
These are the figures to whom the Tea Party movement would appeal against the latest messianic President (although in fairness to the libertarians it must be said that they generally despise Lincoln as a “statist” tyrant, while turning a blind eye to the Presidential tyranny of their idol Jefferson). When the tea partiers invoke the “principles of the Founding” as the way to salvation from Obama, they ignore the history of those principles in practice, which can be summed up in one sentence: Liberty is just power by another name. And because they abide by the Founding’s self-contradictory notion of Liberty-as-rebellion/Liberty-as-obedience, rather than true liberty as the conformity of both ruler and subject to the divine and natural law, the tea partiers are prepared to swallow the camel of legalized abortion while they strain at the comparative gnat of excessive taxation and federal spending, the one issue that is now bringing angry Americans into the streets all over the nation.
At any rate, given the long history of what happens to people who defy presidential power, it is understandable that today’s Tea Parties are purely verbal affairs. But they are quite lucrative for the people doing the talking. Ahead of the curve, the Ron Paul presidential campaign held its first “Tea Party” on November 5, 2007, a date chosen to commemorate Guy Fawkes Day, that traditional Protestant/Masonic celebration of the foiling of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 in which Catholic conspirators were alleged to have attempted to blow up Westminster Palace. One reporter observed that this “was a strange occasion for fundraising in a US presidential campaign…” Not so strange, actually. In colonial Boston, where the first Tea Party was orchestrated by Sam Adams, a twice-fired tax collector and embezzler from the treasuries of Boston and Suffolk County who found his vocation as a professional rabble-rouser, Guy Fawkes Day was known as “Pope’s Day.” The annual Pope’s Day festivities included pitched battles in the street over the mutilation of opposing effigies of the hated pontiff, during which the combatants were sometimes “carted dying off the field of battle.”[iii] Let freedom ring!
Over at the website of the National Tea Party Day/TEA (Taxed Enough Already) organization one finds a video of Newt Gingrich, soon to be the next anointed saviour of the American “conservative” movement, along with a statement of TEA’s grievances against the federal government. They are, of course, the usual:
Are you fed up with a Congress and a president who:
· vote for a $500 billion tax bill without even reading it?
· are spending trillions of borrowed dollars, leaving a debt our great-grandchildren will be paying?
· consistently give special interest groups billions of dollars in earmarks to help get themselves re-elected?
· want to take your wealth and redistribute it to others?
· punish those who practice responsible financial behavior and reward those who do not?
· admit to using the financial hurt of millions as an opportunity to push their political agenda?
· run up trillions of dollars of debt and then sell that debt to countries such as China?
· want government controlled health care?
· want to take away the right to vote with a secret ballot in union elections?
· refuse to stop the flow of millions of illegal immigrants into our country?
· appoint a defender of child pornography to the Number 2 position in the Justice Department?
· want to force doctors and other medical workers to perform abortions against their will?
· want to impose a carbon tax on your electricity, gas and home heating fuels?
· want to reduce your tax deductibility for charitable gifts?
· take money from your family budget to pay for their federal budget?
Notice that all but two of the grievances relate to the pocketbook. TEA does object, however, that a defender of child pornography has been appointed to the Number 2 position in the Justice Department. Fair enough. But what about regular pornography, which, thanks to the “free market,” flows throughout our society like toxic waste in open sewers, corrupting generation after generation of Americans, ruining marriages and feeding the sick minds of serial killers, rapists and other deviants?
It appears that nobody in the Tea Party crowd, not even the Catholics among them, is willing to stand up for the proposition set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.” Well, you see, good old regular pornography is a matter of personal preference, market choice and free speech protected by the First Amendment, however distasteful we personally might find it to be. After all, no one is forcing us to buy it, and we can always change the channel or look the other way. Let freedom ring!
TEA also objects to forcing doctors and other medical workers to perform abortions against their will—a stand about as courageous as objecting to a law requiring elderly people to drink poison. TEA evidently sees no tyranny at work when it comes to doctors and medical workers who quite willingly and routinely perform abortions for money. What about bringing these murderers for hire to justice in order to save millions of innocent lives and exact condign punishment for the millions of lives they have already taken? Come to think of it, what moral standing do the tea partiers have to complain about any governmental wrong if legalized abortion, the greatest wrong in the history of government, does not even rate a place on their list of intolerable grievances?
But it seems no one in the Tea Party movement has penciled in a Tea Party for the unborn. I suppose that is because the Tea Party constituency generally views abortion as a matter to be decided in each state as the majority sees fit—naturally without federal interference, since that would violate “states’ rights” and “the intent of the Founders.” The radical rabble of Boston held their Tea Party to defy a trifling tea tax, but there will be no Tea Party, not even a metaphorical one, to defy the perpetrators of the abortion Holocaust. For the majority has spoken, and as much as we might abhor the result we must follow “the rule of law” the Founders established, at least until we can persuade 50%-plus-one of the voters that the unborn should be spared summary execution by their own mothers. Let freedom ring!
For that matter, I do not see any Tea Parties in the offing concerning any element of the tyrannical regime of state law by which apostate majorities or the courts have legalized not only abortion throughout the nine months of pregnancy but also active or passive euthanasia (in Oregon, Ohio and Florida), have authorized abortions for children while “bypassing” parental consent, have usurped jurisdiction over marriage and made an institution of the Protestant “sacrament” of divorce, thus destroying the family, have filled the drug stores and supermarkets with contraceptive devices available to minors, and have forced all citizens to fund (with onerous real estate and other taxes) a system of universal public education—the dream of Jefferson and his fellow Enlightenment philosophes—that cranks out vast legions of perfectly tolerant drones with the efficiency of an automobile assembly line.
As far as the public schools are concerned, what about a Tea Party addressing compulsory sex education and “gay sensitivity training” in the elementary and secondary schools—diabolical programs that are destroying souls and corrupting our entire society? What about a Tea Party to oppose the extirpation of Christianity in any form from public school classrooms, while the captive audience of students is subjected to “cultural education” in Islam, eastern religions and even witchcraft? I see nothing on the Tea Party schedule.
Nor am I aware of any planned Tea Party over state law “hate crimes” based on religious or “homophobic” speech. And when will there be a Tea Party to resist state laws compelling citizens to recognize “gay marriage” and “gay adoption”? Answer: never. Here too the majority has spoken and the “rule of law” obtains, however much we might deplore the voters’ decision. And Ron Paul quite agrees: “I am supportive of all voluntary associations and people can call it whatever they want.” Let freedom ring!
The Tea Party movement also apparently fails to detect any tyranny worth a Tea Party in the legally mandated absolute separation of Church and State (not merely in the schools)—a regime the legislatures in almost every state had enacted even before it was imposed on the last holdouts via the Fourteenth Amendment. Today every state in the Union prohibits the establishment of so much as a hamlet organized according to Christian legal principles, as Tom Monaghan learned to his great chagrin. I see no upcoming Tea Parties to resist the destruction of the perennial alliance between government and established religion that Madison and Jefferson were determined to accomplish. As “the Father of the Constitution” observed with pride not long before his death:
[T]he prevailing opinion in Europe, England not excepted, has been that Religion could not be preserved without the support of Government, nor Government be supported with[out] an established Religion, that there must be at least an alliance of some sort between them. It remained for North America to bring the great & interesting subject to a fair, & finally, to a decisive test…. [T]he lapse of time, now more than fifty years, since the legal support of Religion was withdrawn, sufficiently prove, that it does not need the support of Government. And it will scarcely be contended that government has suffered by the exemption of Religion from its cognizance, or its pecuniary aid.[iv]
Madison’s opinion that the separation of government from religion would cause no harm to either was just as wrong as his prediction that the federal government he helped devise would be kept in check because national factions would fragment its power. Right! Yet Madison’s brainchild—the first extended secular republic in Western history—is hailed by the tea partiers as nothing less than God’s gift to humanity. The only problem, you see, is that Obama and the Democrats refuse to be guided by “the genius of the Founders,” who left it to the states to decide whether public morality should be destroyed and religion legally confined to the virtual ghetto of “private opinion.”
Obviously, Catholics can agree with the tea partiers on their pocketbook issues. Who wouldn’t want to see an end to the federal government’s overreaching, which violates the Catholic principle of subsidiarity? But even if the Tea Party movement prevailed on every one of its issues in a glorious triumph for what it calls Liberty, true tyranny—the moral and spiritual tyranny of the almighty majority in our liberal Protestant society—would continue to oppress us all.
It’s the Morality, Stupid!
What the tea partiers fail to recognize is that this nation, the first one founded on the principles of the Enlightenment, is descending into chaos because its founders abandoned social principles even the pagan Greeks understood as essential to the good life and the good state. “All the gold on earth or under earth is no equal exchange for goodness,”[v] says Plato in The Laws. Accordingly, in the properly ordered state there is a hierarchy of three goods: “interest in possessions, rightly pursued, holds the third and lowest rank, the interest of the body [health] is second, of the soul, first.”[vi] Indeed, the state whose laws pursue the goods of the soul above all “acquires the lesser along with them, but one which refuses them, misses them both.”[vii] As Christ would proclaim four centuries later: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:31-33). For all their human defects and the sins of their rulers, the states which followed this injunction for nearly fifteen centuries comprised what was known as Christendom—a realm in which the moral depravity that is destroying America was both unthinkable and legally impossible.
The Tea Party movement celebrates a state in which the hierarchy of goods is exactly the inverse of the one defended by Plato and the entire Western tradition before the so-called Enlightenment. Or worse, a state in which the goods of the soul have no place at all in a civic hierarchy comprised of only two goods: “interest in possessions” and “the interest of the body,” with the good of the soul (if one wishes to believe there is a soul) being a purely private affair. This is just as Locke prescribed in his Letter Concerning Toleration, of which Jefferson possessed a copy bearing his own detailed annotations. Men enter into political society, declares Locke, “only for the procuring, preserving, and advancing of their own civil interests… life, liberty, health, and indolency of body; and the possession of outward things, such as money, lands, houses, furniture, and the like.” Therefore, saith the Moses of the Enlightenment, “the care of souls is not committed to the civil magistrate, any more than to other men… The care of each man’s soul… is left entirely to every man’s self.”[viii]
Locke’s vision is the vision of the Founders. They realized their vision perfectly, and left subsequent generations to suffer the consequences. But at least some of the Founders recognized their mistake. As Benjamin Rush confided to Timothy Pickering, who served as Secretary of State under Presidents Washington and Adams: “But Alas ! my friend, I fear all our attempts to produce political happiness by the solitary influence of human reason, will be as fruitless at [as] the search for the philosopher’s stone. It seems to be reserved to Christianity alone to produce universal, moral, political and physical happiness…. I anticipate nothing but suffering to the human race while the present systems of paganism, deism and atheism prevail in the world.”[ix] As no less than John Adams admitted to Rush: “Have I not been employed in mischief all my days? Did not the American Revolution produce the French Revolution? And did not the French Revolution produce all the calamities and desolation to the human race and the whole globe ever since? I meant well, however…”[x] And as Rush declared to Adams: “nothing but the Gospel of Jesus Christ will effect the mighty work of making nations happy.”[xi]
Yet the Tea Party movement and the Obama administration agree on the basic Lockean premise of our republic, with the tea partiers protesting only that Obama and Congress have violated the integrity of the Lockean hierarchy of civic goods as the Founders established it. It was none other than Mark Levin who (no doubt because he doesn’t know any better) recently declared on the radio that to save America we have to “get back to the principles of Hobbes [!] and Locke.” Irony of ironies, by agreeing with their political opponents to consign the soul and the kingdom of God and His righteousness to the sphere of “private” religiosity—the very principle that destroyed a once great civilization—the tea partiers unwittingly assist in depriving of our nation of even those temporal benefits which would be added unto it if God, not the defense of property rights, were the summum bonum of American politics.
Catholics at the Tea Party
Again, the non-Catholic celebrities of the Tea Party movement cannot be expected to view our situation from the perspective of the Magisterium, whose teaching is largely if not entirely unknown to them. And, again, such opposition as they do offer to the regime in Washington is better than none. By their lights they are fighting for truth and justice, even if their understanding of human liberty and the ends of political society is gravely defective.
But what about the Catholics in this constituency, who have received the Sacrament of Confirmation, are charged to be soldiers of Christ, and have a solemn duty to know and proclaim what the Church teaches? The redoubtable Father Thomas Euteneuer of Human Life International has bravely exposed both Hannity and O’Reilly as rank heretics who (like most American Catholics) pick and choose the Church teachings they will accept. O’Reilly, who shores up his male demographic by peppering his TV show with quasi-pornographic “news” segments featuring women in various degrees of undress, impudently derided John Paul II for his opposition to the immoral Iraq war. And Hannity, who publicly defends contraception, runs a dating service that arranges homosexual hookups. Let freedom ring!
At least Hannity and O’Reilly don’t pretend to be anything but what they are: Americanist, liberal Catholics. What can one say, however, about Catholics like my former colleague Tom Woods, Lew Rockwell and Jeffrey Tucker of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which promotes Tea Party superstar Ron Paul and the Tea Party movement through its website at lewrockwell.com? These gentlemen, far more inexcusably than Hannity and O’Reilly, have the audacity to call themselves “traditionalists” as they dissent from the social teaching of the Church, which Woods boldly pronounces “fraught with error.” They propose as the cure for America’s decline not only “Jeffersonian liberalism” and “Austrian economics” (i.e., boundless laissez faire), but Murray Rothbard’s depraved anarcho-capitalist “ethics of liberty” which even the viciously anti-Catholic Jefferson would have found appalling.
In Rothbard’s pseudo-philosophical treatise by that title, he addresses the question “should a parent have the right to allow a deformed baby to die (e.g., by not feeding it)?” Based on the Lockean notion of “self-ownership,” Rothbard answers the question thus: “The answer is of course yes, following a fortiori from the larger right to allow any baby, whether deformed or not, to die.” But Rothbard assures the reader that “in a libertarian society the existence of a free baby market will bring such ‘neglect’ down to a minimum…” Yes, he wrote “free baby market.” Yes, he put the word neglect in quotation marks.
In the same book Rothbard also argues for “The right to blackmail,” which he holds to be “deducible from the general property right in one’s person and knowledge and the right to disseminate or not disseminate that knowledge.” In general, Rothbard declares that laws against not only abortion, but pornography, prostitution, sexual acts between “consenting adults,” and the sale and possession of drugs are an “immoral and unjustified invasion of the right of each individual to make his or her own moral choices.” Yes, he argues that laws enforcing public morality are immoral! Rothbard defends his preposterous “ethics of liberty” with the usual liberal sophism: a disjunction between “the legitimacy of a right and the morality or esthetics of exercising that right”—as if legal rights could be separated from the objective moral order.
In a glowing introduction Woods wrote to another book by the now dearly departed libertarian guru, he praises Rothbard as “a scholar and polymath of such extraordinary productivity as almost to defy belief,” and matter-of-factly describes The Ethics of Liberty as merely a work in which “Rothbard set out the philosophical implications of the idea of self-ownership.” What defies belief is that a Catholic calling himself a traditionalist could publicly promote Rothbard’s “thought” without even warning his fellow Catholics about its blatantly immoral content, let alone condemning and opposing it as every Catholic ought to do. On the contrary, the Von Mises Institute, of which Woods is a senior faculty member in residence, publishes this nonsense to the world as a "classic of liberty" and—believe it or not—“Rothbard’s fullest statement of his natural law grounding for rights.” Yes, “libertarian traditionalists” are attempting to pass off an advocate of the legal right to commit passive infanticide as a defender of natural law. Let freedom ring!
As far as “gay marriage” and adoption are concerned, Woods’ fellow “traditionalist libertarian” Jeff Tucker, agreeing with both Rothbard and Ron Paul, declares that “the social, cultural, and religious conflicts associated with gay marriage and adoption are best resolved through laissez-faire” and that there should be no legal bar to these abominations. As Tucker further informs us: “If you… believe that society requires an overarching coercive authority to impose the family structure, you do not have much faith in the orderliness of human choice, you are not a liberal in the classical sense, and you won’t like the rest of this article.” Translation: the state must not legislate morality. So much for Church teaching to the contrary, not to mention the entire legal tradition of Western civilization. Let freedom ring!
It is bad enough for Tea Party Catholics to be silent about Christ as America perishes for lack of the Gospel, but how can “libertarian traditionalists” justify their promotion of a veritable anti-Gospel largely inspired by the thought of a liberal Jewish agnostic? And these are the Catholics who present themselves as the most principled opponents of the Obama regime! Who knows how many members of the Church, searching in good faith for answers in this age of radical evil, will be led by “Catholic libertarian” propaganda away from the Magisterium’s socially salvific doctrine on the Kingship of Christ and toward the “moral, legal, and social modernism” which, as Pius XI declares in Ubi Arcano Dei, “We condemn, no less decidedly than We condemn theological modernism.”
She Puts Them to Shame
Tea Party Catholics of all stripes present themselves as intrepid foes of the liberal status quo, yet (unwittingly or not) they are actually part of it since they attack only certain of its excesses while tacitly validating its moral relativism by refusing to confront the regime they so profitably deplore with the absolute truth claims of Christ and the Church. Tea Party Catholics are thus justly assigned to the political species Homo liberalis, a term coined by the philosopher Ryszard Legutko in his critique of political modernity aptly entitled Society as a Department Store. And where but in the American department store of ideas could one find an item like the “traditionalist libertarian”?
All of them are put to shame by a young woman named Gianna Jessen, the survivor of a saline abortion, who has the courage to bear witness to Christ in the very halls of government, rebuking legislators in His name. As she declared fearlessly to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution on July 20, 2000:
Where is the soul of America?! Members of this committee: where is YOUR heart? How can you deal with the issues of a nation without examining her soul? A murderous spirit will stop at nothing until it has devoured a nation. Psalm 53:1-3 says: “The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God’; they are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; there is none who does good. God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. Every one of them has turned aside; they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one.”
There was once a man speaking from hell (recorded in Luke 16) who said “I am tormented in this flame.” Hell is real. So is Satan, and the same hatred that crucified Jesus 2000 years ago, still resides in the hearts of sinful people today. Why do you think this whole room trembles when I mention the name Jesus Christ? It is because He is REAL! He is able to give grace for repentance and forgiveness to you and to America. We are under the judgment of God - but we can be saved through Christ….
Good men… have stood up for righteousness, and today we are nothing but cowards in America. We can’t even say the truth because we are so afraid of what our colleagues will think… Shame on America.
Reminding our rulers about Christ and His judgment will not get you a spot on the best-seller list. On the contrary, it will end your career as a big earner on the Tea Party circuit. As Gianna Jessen knows, however, only Christ can save America now. But Christ does not appear in the talking points of the Tea Party Catholics.
True Catholic Witness
Obama’s election has brought our civilizational crisis to a dramatic climax. Yet at the very moment an alarmed people should be ready to understand at last the real cause of the crisis—not this or that government policy, but the social apostasy of the West—the Catholic leaders who should be educating them in that truth instead continue to advocate a shallow and exhausting political activism which addresses little more than “What shall we eat: or what shall we drink, or wherewith shall we be clothed?” (Matt. 6:31).
No doubt the Tea Party Catholics would object that they can only do what is possible in the American political system, and that they can hardly be expected to call for the conversion of America or (ha, ha, ha) the establishment of a Catholic monarchy in the United States—a cheap shot Woods aimed directly at me to make himself look respectable under interrogation by the Southern Poverty Law Center in connection with its recent “investigation” of “radical traditionalists.” Woods, by the way, took that occasion to repent of his co-authorship of The Great Façade and to insure his leftist interrogator that “he has cut all ties to Ferrara.” The striving for respectability not only neutralizes Tea Party Catholics as a religious force but turns them into collaborators in the worldwide attack on traditionalists and the Pope who favors them.
Despite the sophistical excuses they offer for that religious quietism so essential to a career in American public life, Woods and the other Tea Party Catholic celebrities know very well that it has never been a question of converting every American to Catholicism or adopting the monarchical form of government (as if Obama were not a de facto monarch of the worst possible sort). Rather, it is a question of Catholics taking advantage of “modern liberties,” as Pope Leo XIII prescribed, turning the tables on democracy and changing social order by the force of a truly radical witness for the Faith and our sheer numbers at the polls and in the streets. The American political context is no excuse for quietism, but rather an opportunity for bold Catholic action—the very thing Tea Party Catholics avoid like the plague lest they offend their public.
But suppose every Catholic celebrity on the Tea Party circuit forgot about being respectable and spoke out against the regime as Gianna Jessen does, without prescinding from whatever valid temporal issues they pursue. Suppose these gifted members of the laity were joined by the Catholic hierarchy in leading mass opposition to evil laws on the model of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and under the very motto “We shall overcome”?
Suppose only half the Catholic electorate of some 47 million voters, exhorted to do so under pain of sin by bishops and parish priests, voted in every local and national election, on every issue, according to a well-formed Catholic conscience. Suppose the bishops excommunicated every “Catholic” politician who defies Church teaching on faith and morals.
Suppose the entire American episcopate, or some considerable portion of it, solemnly and publicly consecrated America to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (as suggested by the Society of Saint Pius X), calling upon the nation’s rulers to repent in a joint statement. Suppose Catholics in America followed the example of Catholics in Brazil, Portugal, Austria and Pontmain, France, where mass Rosary rallies and public consecrations to the Immaculate Heart—instead of Tea Parties—miraculously repelled invaders, averted temporal disasters and transformed social order.
Suppose, in short, the dictatorship of relativism were challenged both temporally and spiritually by the might of even a partially revived Church Militant, instead of a series of Americanist pep rallies that make their cheerleaders rich and famous while bringing a smile of amused contempt to the faces of the rulers whose real tyranny is never confronted. Who can doubt that America would undergo a change for the good infinitely greater than what could be accomplished by the mailing of tea bags or the preaching of Austrian economics?
At this decisive moment in the history of Western civilization it is inexcusable for Catholics not to proclaim, and to act as if they believe, that the true peace and liberty of a people depends entirely upon its obedience to God and its public acknowledgment of His majesty. Even the Protestant “country rocker” Steve Vaus, reflecting the righteous fear of so many decent Americans deprived of Catholic truth, declares as much in his song “We Must Take America Back”:
We must take America Back, now and forever
with God in His rightful place
Then He will bless and protect the U.S.
But the Tea Party Catholics—outdone by a Protestant pop star whose heart is in the right place—say nothing about America giving God His due in order to overcome this crisis; much less do they speak of what is due to Jesus Christ and the Church He founded to make disciples of all nations. With a vast spiritual arsenal at their disposal, and a body of luminous and infallible teaching that contains everything needed for the wealth and happiness of nations, they speak instead of the Constitution, Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, and how “Austrian economics” could have prevented the collapse of the economy.
The situation is so bad that these Catholics will not even call for national obedience to the token Creator invoked by the deistic Founders. On the contrary, “traditionalist libertarians,” allied with an assortment of atheists and agnostics, argue for a “rational consensus” on “natural law” and “natural rights” which their guru Rothbard absurdly maintained does not require the existence of any deity—as if there could be law without a lawgiver or rights without a God to endow them. All of this is useless, and worse than useless. For the sickness manifested not only in Washington, D.C. but at every level of government is social apostasy reaching its terminal stage, and the only possible cure is supernatural.
The revolutionaries who destroyed Christendom in the name of Liberty always understood the one great threat to the New Order of the Ages they envisioned—the order “traditionalist libertarians” and other Tea Party Catholics defend in principle whether they admit it or not. The intellectual descendants of those revolutionaries have inherited their ancestors’ uncanny sublunary wisdom, which accounts for the astonishing worldwide assault on Pope Benedict XVI by the mass media, pressure groups, and even national legislative bodies, all of them infuriated by the Pope’s gestures in favor of a tiny minority of Roman Catholic traditionalists and a few uncompromising statements on the moral law.
As Gianna Jessen told the tyrants to their faces, the only thing that really threatens their power over us and makes them tremble is the Holy Name of Jesus. It was His invincible Church that overcame the Roman Empire and has the power still to overcome the neo-pagan Empire of Liberty—if only Catholics will act as Catholics, if only they will stop agreeing to pretend that the Church has no existence in the realm of “secular society” the philosophers of the “Enlightenment” invented precisely to suppress the Church’s influence once and for all. Let the pretense be ended. Let Catholics make their program the principle that even Benjamin Rush recognized: “nothing but the Gospel of Jesus Christ will effect the mighty work of making nations happy.” Let freedom ring.
[i]Levy, Jefferson and Civil Liberties: the Dark Side, 140.
[ii]Morison, Oxford History of the American People, 375.
[iii]John C. Miller, Sam Adams: Pioneer in Propaganda (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1960), 68.
[iv]Letter to Rev. Adams (1833), in Daniel L. Dreisbach, Religion and Politics in the Early Republic: Jasper Adams and the Church-State Debate ( Lexington, KY, 1996), 117-121, at 118 (paragraph breaks omitted).
[v]Laws, IV, 728a.
[vi]Laws, V, 744e.
[vii]Laws, I, 631b.
[viii]Letter Concerning Toleration (Popple trans.), 26, 27, 35, 48.
[ix]Rush to Pickering, July 20, 1798, in Notes on the Life of Noah Webster, ed. Ellsworth and Skeel (New York: 1912), 466.
[x]Adams to Rush, August 28, 1811, in The Spur of Fame, 207.
[xi]In Gordon Wood, The Radicalism of the American Revolution, 367.