Dr. Hitchcock and the Tyranny of Public Opinion
In the seventies he condoned women’s ordination. Today, he writes demagogic screeds against “the Catholic Right” because it sees no prospect of ending legalized abortion under an increasingly degenerate pluralist status quo. The good news is that James Hitchcock’s outdated brand of “progressive” Catholicism is passing from the scene. Let us do nothing to delay its departure
Christopher A. Ferrara
|REMNANT COLUMNIST, New Jersey|
Misleading his Readers—Again
In “Abortion and the ‘Catholic Right,’ Part II,” Hitchcock continues to demonstrate that he is unwilling to depict his opponent’s position honestly. One example will suffice. In my reply to Hitchcock’s first article, I criticized the Supreme Court’s decision in Gonzalez v. Carhart, wherein the Court—by a whisker—upheld the federal statutory ban on “partial birth” abortion. Toward the end of his piece Hitchcock provides this laughable “summary” of my discussion of Carhart:
Ferrara claims the Supreme Court’s decision against partial birth abortion merely “demonstrates that the nation is in the grip of an Enlightenment-bred lunacy only a miracle of grace can cure,” an assertion based on the fact that the Court did not condemn abortion outright.
Hitchcock falsely suggests that my observation of “Enlightenment-bred lunacy” was based on nothing more than Carhart’s failure to condemn abortion. In truth, however, my argument focused on the positively ghoulish legal rationale of Justice Kennedy, whose opinion upheld the statute at issue against a “facial” challenge on grounds of overbreadth and vagueness only because it provides “anatomical landmarks” that distinguish a partial birth abortion from a regular D & E: “the entire fetal head is outside the [mother’s] body” or, in the case of a feet-first presentation, “the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the [mother's] body ...” Since, said Justice Kennedy, these “anatomical landmarks” give adequate notice of the difference between constitutionally protected abortions—which, of course, Kennedy would uphold—and an illegal “partial birth” abortion, abortionists have fair warning of what conduct is prohibited. And abortionists remain free to butcher babies delivered up to the navel, or whose heads are still partly inside the womb.
Moreover, I pointed out in my original article that Kennedy held that even if an abortionist delivers a baby past the relevant “anatomical landmark” by mistake, he can still hack it to pieces without fear of liability, because the statute requires that “the physician must have ‘deliberately and intentionally’ delivered the fetus to one of the Act’s anatomical landmarks” before he butchers it. And, I noted, Kennedy also held that while the statute is not facially unconstitutional for lack of a “health of the mother” exception, a woman can always sue to invalidate the Act as applied to her, so long as “it can be shown that in discrete and well-defined instances a particular condition has or is likely to occur in which the procedure prohibited by the Act must be used.” That is, if a woman maintains that her particular “health” concerns require that her baby’s brains be sucked out during a partial delivery, she will have standing to attack the constitutionality of the statutory “ban” on “partial birth” abortions.
I also went on to discuss how Catholic Justice Kennedy was joined in this macabre opinion by both of President Bush’s “pro-life” Catholic appointees, Alito and Roberts, and by Catholic Justices Scalia and Thomas, who concurred in Kennedy’s opinion “because it accurately applies current jurisprudence,” while noting that the Constitution does not authorize abortion, which is a matter for the people to decide through their state legislatures. The concurring opinion by Scalia and Thomas cites this ringing defense of life in the womb by Justice Scalia in Planned Parenthood v. Casey: “The States may, if they wish, permit abortion on demand, but the Constitution does not require them to do so. The permissibility of abortion, and the limitations upon it, are to be resolved like most important questions in our democracy: by citizens trying to persuade one another and then voting.”[i] Thumbs up, and the babies live. Thumbs down, and they die.
For these reasons, I argued, the decision in Carhart will not, obviously, save a single human life from the abortionist’s scalpel and suction machine. Quite the contrary, Carhart affirms the continued legality of “partial birth” abortions so long as the “anatomical landmarks” are not passed, and does nothing to prohibit late-term abortion by saline injection or any other method not specifically “banned” by the statute. Hence a group of distinguished signatories, including Judie Brown, Rev. Tom Euteneuer, and Ambassador Alan Keyes, rightly declared in an open letter to James Dobson that the Carhart decision is
one of the most barbaric opinions ever issued by an American court…. The Justices you called “pro-life” did not “affirm” the life of the unborn but upheld a mere “regulatory” law “under the Commerce Clause”….These Justices you misrepresent as “pro-life” actually suggest other ways for abortionists to kill the fully intact, late-term child to comply with their regulation, such as “an injection that kills the fetus.”… Throughout the ruling, Justices Kennedy, Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, and Alito concur that both the partial-birth abortion (PBA) ban, and their ruling, allow the abortionist to deliver a late-term baby all the way up to the navel and then kill him…. This wicked ruling does not even prohibit aborting partially born children. It is not a ban, but a partial-birth abortion manual.[ii]
Thus, as I concluded in the argument Hitchcock completely misrepresents:
The five Catholic justices of our Supreme Court rely, not on what is objectively right or wrong, but on precise legal distinctions concerning ‘anatomical landmarks’ on the victims of cold-blooded murder, while leaving religion, the natural law and the eternal law outside the courtroom door. They act this way because there is no place for God or God’s law in the jurisprudence of our Godless political regime. So declared Justice Scalia himself during an address and Q & A at the Gregorian in Rome: “[T]he test of good government, like the test of good tailoring, is assuredly not whether it helps you to save your soul… [T]he state does not adopt [a law] for supernatural reasons…. The state adopts it because that’s what its people want….. If the people, for example, want abortion the state should permit abortion in a democracy…. I have been appointed to apply the Constitution and the positive law. God applies the natural law.”
Surely not even Hitchcock can be unaware that it is absolutely impermissible for any Catholic holding public office to ignore the eternal and natural law, as Scalia insists he must, and to hold, as he does, that democratic majorities have the right to legalize abortion. And yet every one of the Catholic members of the federal judiciary and U.S. Congress thinks this way, because it is the way they have been trained to think in our Enlightenment-bred polity, whose summum bonum is not the possession of virtue, much less eternal beatitude, but the possession of Liberty. And even if, by some miracle, the Republican Party someday delivered a brace of nine Scalias to the Supreme Court bench, here is what they would unanimously declare concerning whether children in the womb shall live or die: Let the people decide.
So, there was just a bit more behind my reference to “Enlightenment-bred lunacy” than the mere failure of the Carhart decision to condemn abortion outright. Hitchcock concealed the entire substance of my argument in his “reply” to it. Why mince words?: In order to score cheap points with the readers of Human Life Review, Hitchcock lied to them.
A Right Use of the Political Process
In “Part II” of his attack on “the Catholic Right,” Hitchcock continues to propose the same old Republican Party politics as a reasonable approach to the abortion issue, even though he bobs and weaves on whether loyalty to the Republicans is really what he advocates. Here is how he states his “thesis”:
…[I]nvolvement in political action necessarily carries with it moral ambiguities, in that citizens cannot simply will into being a political movement that perfectly satisfies all their principles and therefore of necessity must work with existing parties and groups. Over time, abortion brought many Catholics into an alliance with the Republican Party, an alliance that necessarily forces voters to buy the whole political package, and my thesis was that some on the Catholic Right, in repudiating that alliance, have been forced to retreat from the abortion issue itself.
Translation: Since we simply must accept moral compromise on the abortion issue, that means voting Republican. Not to vote Republican any longer is to retreat from the abortion issue. One is forced to retreat from the abortion issue if one rejects the Republican Party. On the abortion issue, it is basically the Republicans or nothing. True, Hitchcock notes further on that “I am happy to support the occasional pro-life Democrat, and would never support a pro-abortion Republican.” But he once again fails to address the central contention of the “Catholic Right”: that, as the bogus “pro-life victory” in Carhart shows, both major political parties are more or less facilitators of the abortion holocaust, so that thirty-five years of pro-life activism within the two-party system have failed to save a single life in the womb. Hitchcock likewise has nothing to say about the fact that all Republican Party candidates, and all five Catholic justices on the Supreme Court, affirm the “right” of “the people” in every state to legalize as much abortion as they please. Hitchcock, in other words, fails to address the fatal infirmity of pluralist democracy as it bears on the abortion issue: that it subordinates everything, even the law of God, to rational instrumentalities of the popular will and “representative” government, rejecting all “external” restraint by revealed religion or even the natural law.
That said, the “Catholic Right” does not reject a judicious use of the existing political process to the limited extent it can be made useful in the cause of restoring civilization to its proper foundations. As Pope Leo put it in Immortale Dei, in a teaching clearly lost on Hitchcock, while “the principles on which such a government [the modern State] is grounded are, as We have said, of a nature which no one can approve,” Catholics can still “make use of popular institutions, so far as can honestly be done… to endeavour to bring back all civil society to the pattern and form of Christianity which We have described.” That is, the program of Catholic political action must be the restoration of political society at the level of first principles, not mere acceptance of whatever “best deal” the political process currently offers on a menu of ever-diminishing moral acceptability. Voting for the Republicans in election after election is hardly the way to pursue the program of radical social and political reform to which the Faith commits us. Witness our reward for decades of loyalty to the Republican Party: the “victory” in Carhart, which will save no lives and has actually helped to affirm the imaginary right of the majority to sentence unborn babies to death throughout the nine months of gestation.
Therefore, our resort to the political process, if it is to be of any avail, must at this point involve a combination of calculated abstention and votes for third party candidates who represent a sufficiently radical opposition to the status quo. For example, the Constitution Party’s platform writes God and His law into the Constitution rather than out of it, unlike Justice Scalia (and unlike the Framers themselves, as I discuss below). Compare the Constitution Party’s statement on abortion with the above-quoted statements by Scalia:
We affirm the God-given legal personhood of all unborn human beings, without exception. As to matters of rape and incest, it is unconscionable to take the life of an innocent child for the crimes of his father.
No government may legalize the taking of the unalienable right to life without justification, including the life of the pre-born; abortion may not be declared lawful by any institution of state or local government—legislative, judicial, or executive. The right to life should not be made dependent upon a vote of a majority of any legislative body.[iii]
Imagine, if you will, only one million Catholics voting for the Constitution Party in the next Presidential election, thereby teaching the losing Republicans the lesson that next time they had better stop playing games with us and adopt a plank on abortion that adheres to the divine and natural law. If there is a better prospect for reforming the Republican Party, I would like to know what it is. There is certainly no prospect whatever of reforming it if Catholics continue to vote for “pro-life” candidates who are, effectively, pro-abortion candidates.
Any mobilization of the Catholic electorate for real reform must, however, begin with the American hierarchy. Why waste time lobbying craven Republican politicians, most of whom are liberal Protestants, when lobbying craven bishops might well succeed in activating enough of them to activate, in turn, enough of the Catholic electorate to change the face of this nation. And what if, in addition to the automatic excommunication provided in canon law, the bishops issued ferendae sententiae decrees of excommunication for every single “Catholic” politician and judge who supports legalized abortion, and every “Catholic” abortion mill staffer, publicly calling this legion of mortal sinners to conversion and repentance? Hitchcock and those who think like him seem to have forgotten that despite her apparent subjugation by the forces of modernity, the Catholic Church is, in potentia, the single most powerful institution on the face of the earth—I daresay even more powerful than the Republican Party. The world knows this, which is why the organs of public opinion are so agitated by Pope Benedict’s recent departures from the incapacitating “spirit of Vatican II.”
Use of the political process is hardly limited to voting. As a civil rights attorney who spends a great deal of time representing Catholic pro-life activists, I know, as my clients do, that in the history of this country street activism has been a far more effective means of bringing about social change than casting ballots for two-faced politicians. How many abortion mills would remain open if the Catholic bishops led the faithful in weekly marches on every abortion mill, and on the home of every abortionist, in America? And what if, following the example of the late Bishop Vaughn, a great pro-life warrior, and the civil rights demonstrators of the 1960s, the bishops themselves led their flocks in civil disobedience to the Freedom of Access to Clinics Entrances Act and local laws that purport to protect the delivery of “reproductive health services”? Perhaps Hitchcock is unfamiliar with Martin Luther King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Whatever one thinks of King, he certainly had his Catholic moral theology right when he wrote this from inside his jail cell:
[O]ne has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “an unjust law is no law at all.”... How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. 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.
How many bishops would the “authorities” dare to imprison for following the example of “Saint” Martin Luther King by sitting in at abortion mills, perhaps while singing “We Shall Overcome” together with their flocks? Just as civilly disobedient Protestant clergy helped bring an end to segregation, so could the Catholic Church—not the Republican Party—bring an end to abortion, if only the power at her disposal were unleashed in social action. Here too, the power of the Church is potentially immense, and would indeed be unstoppable. (I am not here advocating any form of violent pro-life advocacy, but rather actions no different in kind from those of the civil rights movement.) To those (presumably including Hitchcock) who would turn up their noses at such unseemly behavior, let me pose this question: If black Americans risked arrest and imprisonment to end such evils as segregated lunch counters, and today their civil disobedience is called heroic, how can any Catholic defend total civic quiescence in the face of pre-natal genocide?
And what does it tell us about our situation that Martin Luther King, writing in the 1960’s, sounds far more Catholic than every Catholic member of Congress and the United States Supreme Court today, and indeed far more Catholic than Hitchcock? It tells us that the salt has lost its flavor and is about to be trampled under foot. Not to worry, however, for Hitchcock has the answer: vote Republican. Or, to be perfectly fair to him: vote Republican or for “the occasional pro-life Democrat.”
Just Who Has Retreated from the Abortion Issue?
In order to rebut Hitchcock’s accusation of a retreat from the abortion issue by the “Catholic Right” I have presented here some forms of Catholic participation in the political process that could actually be efficacious. But as the “Catholic Right” has come to recognize, the “alliance with the Republican Party” on which Hitchcock places such capital importance is worse than useless to the cause of the unborn. Indeed, it is Catholics of Hitchcock’s persuasion who have retreated from the abortion issue by leaving its resolution to a political system that, as Carhart confirms, is incapable in principle of resolving it in a manner consistent with the objective moral order, much less Catholic teaching.
We live in times when a “conservative pro-life Republican” like Sean Hannity offers a gay and lesbian matchmaking service on his website, and even relative contrarians like Ann Coulter, backed against the wall by public opinion, declare themselves perfectly accepting of the “gay lifestyle.” On the other hand, even Rush Limbaugh is fed up with the Republicans and is counseling his legions of listeners to abstain entirely from the electoral process.
Catholics like Hitchcock, then, now find themselves to the left of even Limbaugh. Ignoring all evidence to the contrary, they abide in the delusion that real change is possible through politics as usual in what any fool can see is a terminally degenerate political society. Like some creature in a zoo that has never lived in the outside world, Hitchcock seems unaware that he is confined in a cage wherein he must subsist on whatever the Republican or Democrat zoo keepers of the day decide to toss to him through the bars. And whoever does not think that twenty-first century America is a zoo, run by zoo keepers, is suffering from the same delusion as Hitchcock.
Protestants Get It, So Why Doesn’t He?
And while I am at it—as this will be the last time I write anything in response to Hitchcock—let me note that a radically Christian criticism of our political regime did not begin with a reactionary “Catholic Right,” as Hitchcock so demagogically suggests, but rather was seen among conservative Protestants from the time of the Constitution’s ratification. Protestants, albeit the most conservative ones, decried the Constitution’s godlessness and the deism of the “revolutionary Presidents” who ascended to power, one after the other, following the Revolution. One example is this oft-quoted sermon by the Presbyterian theologian James Renwick Willson of Albany:
When the war was over and the victory over our enemies won, and the blessings and happiness of liberty and peace were secured, the Constitution was framed and God was neglected. He was not merely forgotten. He was absolutely voted out of the Constitution. The proceedings, as published by Thompson, the secretary, and the history of the day, show that the question was gravely debated whether God should be in the Constitution or not, and after a solemn debate he was deliberately voted out of it…. There is not only in the theory of our government no recognition of God’s laws and sovereignty, but its practical operation, its administration, has been conformable to its theory. Those who have been called to administer the government have not been men making any public profession of Christianity…. Washington was a man of valor and wisdom. He was esteemed by the whole world as a great and good man; but he was not a professing Christian.[iv]
In the same vein was a sermon in 1793 by Dr. John M. Mason, one of the most influential American Presbyterian theologians and preachers the late 18th century. Mason made the rather devastating point that even pagans would have paid more attention to divinity in an undertaking as momentous as the Founding:
While many, on various pretenses, have criminated the Federal Constitution one objection has urged itself forcibly on the pious mind. That no notice whatever should be taken of that God who planteth a nation and plucketh it up at His pleasure, is an omission which no pretext whatever can palliate. Had such a momentous business been transacted by Mohammedans, they would have begun, “In the name of God.” Even the savages whom we despise, setting a better example, would have paid some homage to the Great Spirit. But from the Constitution of the United States, it is impossible to ascertain what God we worship, or whether we own a God at all.[v]
During the War of 1812 no less than the President of Yale, Timothy Dwight, speaking in the midst of the Second Great Awakening, lamented the “Godless Constitution” in an address to his students:
The nation has offended Providence. We formed our Constitution without any acknowledgement of God; without any recognition of His mercies to us, as a people, of his government, or even of His existence. The [Constitutional] Convention, by which it was formed, never asked even once, His direction, or His blessing, upon their labours. Thus we commenced our national existence under the present system, without God. [vi]
Few Americans—including, evidently, Hitchcock—are aware that fifty years later, in the midst of the Civil War, a nationwide movement of prominent Protestant clergy, academics, legislators and jurists known as the National Reform Association (NRA) drafted and circulated throughout the country a Memorial and Petition, ultimately presented to Congress in 1874 (and multiple times thereafter), to amend the Constitution to provide for an acknowledgement of God and Christ. The third president of the NRA was no less a personage than retired associate Supreme Court Justice William Strong, a Presbyterian. Referring to “our national sins, which have provoked the Divine displeasure”—i.e., the Civil War—and the need of “of imploring forgiveness through Jesus Christ,” NRA’s petition proposed that the Constitution’s Preamble be amended to read as follows:
We, the people of the United States, [humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Ruler among the nations, his revealed will as the supreme law of the land, in order to constitute a Christian government,] and in order to form a more perfect union…[vii]
The proceedings of the NRA’s Fifth Annual Convention in 1874, attended by more than a thousand elected delegates, are replete with indictments of the Constitution’s godlessness, including a reprint of the aforementioned sermon by Rev. Mason. The 1874 proceedings refer to a resolution adopted by the NRA at its Philadelphia convention in 1864, which cited the Treaty of Tripoli (wherein the United States Senate unanimously declared that America is not a Christian nation) and President Jefferson’s refusal to proclaim a day of fasting and prayer as evidence of the Constitution’s grave defect:
Resolved, That a national recognition of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Scriptures, as proposed in the memorial of this Association to Congress, is clearly a scriptural duty, which it is national peril to disregard.
Resolved, That… it is a striking and solemn fact that our present National Constitution is so devoid of any distinctive Christian feature, that one of our Chief Magistrates [Jefferson] once refused to appoint a day of fasting and prayer in an hour of public calamity, because the nation, in its Constitution, recognized no God; and another [John Adams], in contracting a treaty with a Mohammedan power [the Treaty of Tripoli] hesitated not to declare that “the Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. It has in itself no character of enmity against the laws and religion of Mussulmans.”[viii]
Of course, Catholic voices were not wanting on this score. Representing the many American Catholics who (unlike Hitchcock and company today) stood by Popes Blessed Pius IX, Leo XIII and Saint Pius X in their opposition to “modern liberty,” including the Americanist variety, the great convert Orestes Brownson—himself a disillusioned Americanist—had this to say about the future of the republic, eight years after the Civil War:
Where the people are Catholic and submissive to the law of God, as declared and applied by the vicar of Christ and supreme pastor of the church, democracy may be a good form of government; but combined with Protestantism or infidelity in the people, its inevitable tendency is to lower the standard of morality, to enfeeble intellect, to abase character, and to retard civilization, as even our short American experience amply proves. Our republic may have had a material expansion and growth; but every observing and reflecting American, whose memory goes back, as mine does, over fifty years, sees that in all else it is tending downward, and is on the declivity to utter barbarism.[ix]
Once Hitchcock has done some reading on the subject, let him explain, to those who still take him seriously, why contemporary Catholics should have a more benign view of “the American model” and its ability to secure justice and morality than Protestants and Catholics who expressed apocalyptic pessimism about this nation long before the Supreme Court legalized abortion and consensual sodomy. Let him also explain why he sneers at traditional Catholics for insisting that America has a duty corporately to recognize the social kingship of Christ in its laws and institutions, when even nineteenth century Protestants, including a retired Supreme Court justice, insisted upon the same principle, however imperfectly they understood its application.
Assisting the Tyranny of Public Opinion
Like some sophomore at the bottom of his class at a third-tier university, Hitchcock objects that John Rao failed to “define” the Enlightenment when he wrote of American pluralist democracy as a product of Enlightenment thinking: “Uh, professor, define the Enlightenment.” Of course, Rao does define the Enlightenment, as he notes in his own reply to Hitchcock. And any educated Catholic would know that the Enlightenment, as that great historian of the Enlightenment, Peter Gay, describes it, was a “prosecution” of Christianity by philosophes who were seeking to create a brave new world of Liberty in which the truths of Christian revelation would be banished from political life. It was “a demand for the political right to question everything,” the “attack on metaphysics,” “the progress of religious indifference,” and “the rise of modern paganism.”[x] It was, in short, a philosophical preparation for the current condition of the Western world. And America, as Gay concludes, represents “the program of enlightenment in practice.”[xi] All this, mind you, from a historian who is sympathetic to the Enlightenment.
Many on the “Catholic Right,” unlike Hitchcock, recognize that American politics according to “the rules of the game,” as John Rao calls them—that is, the rules of “Enlightenment” and post-Enlightenment liberalism that now govern the abortion issue—is a losing and ultimately deadly proposition. These members of the Catholic Right, who actually believe that human history extends farther back than the Constitutional Convention of 1787, recognize that the “Enlightenment” was a descent into what Alasdair MacIntyre rightly suggests is a new dark ages in which we are waiting “not for Godot, but for another—doubtless very different—Saint Benedict.”[xii]
This is why the “Catholic Right” comes under attack from “progressive” Catholics like Hitchcock. The progressives in our Church have committed themselves to abide by the rules of the Enlightenment game, and to enforce them against their own fellow Catholics. Progressive Catholics thereby contribute to that peculiarly American tyranny of public opinion famously remarked by Alexis de Tocqueville. Writing around 1831, Tocqueville observed: “I do not know of any country where, in general, less independence of mind and genuine freedom of discussion reign than in America.” In America, wrote Tocqueville, “the majority draws a formidable circle around thought.” You may, if you dare, venture outside the circle of approved opinion, and no one will prevent you from doing so. But once you have done so, “you shall remain among men, but shall lose your rights of humanity. When you approach those like you, they shall flee you as being impure; and those who believe in your innocence, even they shall abandon you…” In democratic republics like America, Tocqueville concluded, tyranny “leaves the body and goes straight for the soul.”[xiii]
Hitchcock, then, is trying to cast his fellow Catholics outside the circle of opinion deemed acceptable under the rules of the game. In following those rules himself, he succumbs to the tyranny over the soul that is American pluralist democracy, becoming like the proles in 1984, of whom Orwell wrote: “And even when they became discontented, as they sometimes did, their discontent led nowhere, because being without general ideas, they could only focus it on petty specific grievances. The larger evils invariably escaped their notice.” For Hitchcock and his fellow progressives, even the grave evil of abortion is, in practice, reduced to a petty grievance, unworthy of any action more vigorous than voting Republican, or writing articles condemning fellow Catholics who have come to believe that voting Republican is a vain exercise.
Time to Move On
Back in 1974 Hitchcock, while being interviewed in his capacity as a professor at Saint Louis University, publicly declared: “I don’t see any major objection to the ordination of women.”[xiv] Even if he now assents to the infallible teaching of the Church on this point of doctrine, that Hitchcock could ever have endorsed women’s ordination, especially while teaching at a Catholic university, only confirms what is still evident today: that he is just another American liberal, who has been able to pass himself off as a staunchly “conservative” Catholic during the post-conciliar huggermugger.
Deo gratias, the end of the progressive Catholic debacle launched at Vatican II is at last approaching, as the ever-more-vibrant Chartres pilgrimage (from which I have just returned) attests. An unreconstructed and militant Catholic faith is beginning to return to many places from which it had been banished; it is rising again on the strength of the traditional liturgy, thanks to the currently reigning Pope, who—for all his own past dalliances with progressivism—does not hesitate today to refer to himself by that oh-so-unprogressive and un-American title of Roman Pontiff.
I would wager that the worldwide return of the traditional liturgy unsettles Hitchcock. After all, his own wife, Helen Hull Hitchcock, is a leader of the impeccably progressive Adoremus organization, whose first principle still is: “We do not think that a simple return to the pre-conciliar Liturgy will further the reforms lawfully mandated by the Second Vatican Council.”[xv] The Pope’s declaration that the traditional Latin Mass was never abrogated by any “mandate” of the Council or Paul VI, and that every priest and religious order in the Church has (and always had) the right to offer it, is a stunning demonstration that in the Church, unlike America, “progress” can indeed be reversed. This alarming development would suggest that the progressive, Americanized Catholicism of which Hitchcock is such a connoisseur might itself be on the verge of reversal, as the Church, led by a clearly worried Pope, begins to awake to the threat posed by the same “dictatorship of relativism” that Hitchcock thinks will rescue us from the scourge of abortion.
The best thing to do respecting superannuated progressives like Hitchcock is to let them fade away without further comment. Their day is done. Traditional Roman Catholicism, whose ranks are filling with young people, needs to move ahead with a serious approach to confronting a political order that seeks to annihilate morality and revealed religion while demanding that we hail the “freedom” of the Church. Here we must not only recover the authoritative anti-Liberal teaching of a long line of Popes before the Council, but also look to the work of genuine scholars of the history of ideas: Dupré, Jaeger, MacIntyre, Manent, Milbank, Nichols, Pangle, Pickstock, Polanyi, Rao, Rieff, Rist, Rowland, Schindler, Schneewind, Voegelin, and a host of others whose work (much of it not even explicitly Catholic) has helped to expose the fraudulence, incoherence and inherent self-destructiveness of the post-Christian liberal State. Perhaps Human Life Review will begin making a contribution to this work, instead of continuing to provide a forum for the intellectual equivalent of deckhands on the Titanic.
[i]Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 505 U.S. at 979 (Scalia, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part).
[ii]“Open Letter to James Dobson,” http://www.coloradorighttolife.org/openletter.
[iii]Constitution Party Platform, “Sanctity of Life,” @constitutionparty.com/party_platform.php#Sancity%20of%20Life.
[iv]Paul F. Boller, George Washington & Religion (Dallas: Methodist University Press, 1963), 14-15. The sermon has apparently been wrongly attributed to Rev. Bird Wilson, son of the lesser known Founder James Wilson. See discussion at http://www.positiveliberty.com/2007/04/correction-in-the-historical-record-needed-on-bird-wilson.html
[v]Quoted in “Proceedings of the Fifth National Reform Convention, to Aid in Maintaining The Christian Features of the American Government, and Securing a Religious Amendment to Constitution of United States,” (Philadelphia: Christian Statesman Association, 1874), digitized Harvard University text, 42.
[vi]Quoted in Isaac Kramnick, The Godless Constitution: the Case Against Religious Correctness (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1997), 105-106.
[ix]Orestes Brownson, “Introduction to Last Series,” Brownson’s Quarterly Review (January 1873), in The Works of Orestes A. Brownson (Detroit: H.F. Brownson, 1887) Vol. XX, 285.
[x]Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: The Rise of Modern Paganism (New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1995) 141, 350
[xi]Peter Gay, The Enlightenment: The Science of Freedom (New York, W.W. Norton & Co., 1996), 558.
[xii]Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984), 263.
[xiii]Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, ed. Mansfield and Winthrop (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 244, 245..
[xiv]Quoted in Ann Asper Wilson, “Vocal Conservative Catholics,” Saint Louis Globe-Democrat, August 10-11, 1974, p. 15A.