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FULL TEXT: Judge Amy Coney Barrett accepts Trump’s nomination to Supreme Court

September 26, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) – Judge Amy Coney Barrett, a Catholic mother of seven, delivered these remarks at the White House Rose Garden this evening upon being nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Donald Trump.

Thank you very much, Mr. President. I am deeply honored by the confidence that you have placed in me. I am so grateful to you and the First Lady, to the Vice President, and the Second Lady, and to so many others here for your kindness on this rather overwhelming occasion. I fully understand that this is a momentous decision for a president. And if the Senate does me the honor of confirming me, I pledge to discharge the responsibilities of this job to the very best of my ability. I love the United States and I love the United States Constitution.

I am truly humbled by the prospect of serving on the Supreme Court, should I be confirmed. I will be mindful of who came before me. The flag of the United States is still flying at half staff in memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to mark the end of a great American life. Justice Ginsburg began her career at a time when women were not welcome in the legal profession. But she not only broke glass ceilings, she smashed them. For that, she has won the admiration of women across the country and indeed all over the world.

She was a woman of enormous talents and consequence, and her life of public service serves as an example to us all. Particularly poignant to me was her long and deep friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia, my own mentor. Justices Scalia and Ginsburg disagreed fiercely in print without rancor in person. Their ability to maintain a warm and rich friendship, despite their differences, even inspired an opera. These two great Americans demonstrated that arguments, even about matters of great consequence, need not destroy affection. In both my personal and professional relationships, I strive to meet that standard.

I was lucky enough to clerk for Justice Scalia, and given his incalculable influence on my life, I am very moved to have members of the Scalia family here today, including his dear wife, Maureen. I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago. But the lessons I learned still resonate. His judicial philosophy is mine, too. A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policy makers, and they must be resolute and setting aside any policy views they might hold. The president has asked me to become the ninth justice and as it happens, I’m used to being in a group of nine: my family.

Our family includes me, my husband Jesse, Emma, Vivian, Tess, John Peter, Liam, Juliet, and Benjamin.

Vivian and John Peter, as the president said, were born in Haiti and they came to us five years apart when they were very young, and the most revealing fact about Benjamin, our youngest, is that his brothers and sisters unreservedly identify him as their favorite sibling. Our children obviously make our life very full. While I am a judge, I’m better known back home as a room parent, carpool driver, and birthday party planner. When schools went remote last spring, I tried on another hat. Jesse and I became co-principals of the Barrett E-Learning Academy. And yes, the list of enrolled students was a very long one. Our children are my greatest joy, even though they deprive me of any reasonable amount of sleep.

I couldn’t manage this very full life without the unwavering support of my husband, Jesse. At the start of our marriage, I imagined that we would run our household as partners. As it has turned out, Jesse does far more than his share of the work. To my chagrin, I learned at dinner recently that my children consider him to be the better cook. For 21 years, Jesse has asked me every single morning what he can do for me that day. And though I almost always say, “nothing,” he still finds ways to take things off my plate. And that’s not because he has a lot of free time. He has a busy law practice. It’s because he is a superb and generous husband and I am very fortunate.

Jesse and I have a life full of relationships not only with our children, but with siblings, friends and fearless babysitters, one of whom is with us today. I am particularly grateful to my parents, Mike and Linda Coney. I have spent the bulk of my adulthood as a Midwesterner, but I grew up in their New Orleans home. And as my brother and sisters can also attest, mom and dad’s generosity extends not only to us, but to more people than any of us could count. They are an inspiration. It is important at a moment like this to acknowledge family and friends. But this evening, I also want to acknowledge you, my fellow Americans. The president has nominated me to serve on the United States Supreme Court, and that institution belongs to all of us. If confirmed, I would not assume that role for the sake of those in my own circle and certainly not for my own sake.

I would assume this role to serve you. I would discharge the judicial oath, which requires me to administer justice without respect to persons, do equal right to the poor and rich, and faithfully and impartially discharge my duties under the United States Constitution.

I have no illusions that the road ahead of me will be easy, either for the short term or the long haul. I never imagined that I would find myself in this position. But now that I am, I assure you that I will meet the challenge with both humility and courage. Members of the United States Senate, I look forward to working with you during the confirmation process, and I will do my very best to demonstrate that I am worthy of your support.

Thank you

China’s Catholics and the Church’s Moral Witness. By Michael R. Pompeo

The human rights situation in China has deteriorated severely under the autocratic rule of Xi Jinping, especially for religious believers. Credible reports have exposed the Chinese Communist Party’s program of forced sterilizations and abortions of Muslims in Xinjiang, its abuse of Catholic priests and laypeople, and its assault on Protestant house churches—all of which are parts of a “Sinicization” campaign to subordinate God to the Party while promoting Xi himself as an ultramundane deity. Now more than ever, the Chinese people need the Vatican’s moral witness and authority in support of China’s religious believers.

Vatican diplomats are meeting this month with their CCP counterparts to negotiate the renewal of a two-year-old provisional agreement between the Holy See and China. The terms of that pact have never been publicly disclosed; but the Church’s hope was that it would improve the condition of Catholics in China by reaching agreement with the Chinese regime on the appointment of bishops, the traditional stewards of the faith in local communities.

Two years on, it’s clear that the Sino-Vatican agreement has not shielded Catholics from the Party’s depredations, to say nothing of the Party’s horrific treatment of Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Falun Gong devotees, and other religious believers. The State Department’s 2019 annual report on religious freedom provides an illustrative example in the story of Father Paul Zhang Guangjun, who was beaten and “disappeared” for refusing to join the CCP-run Patriotic Catholic Association. Sadly, his experience is not unique. Communist authorities continue to shutter churches, spy on and harass the faithful, and insist that the Party is the ultimate authority in religious affairs.

As part of the 2018 agreement, the Vatican legitimized Chinese priests and bishops whose loyalties remain unclear, confusing Chinese Catholics who had always trusted the Church. Many refuse to worship in state-sanctioned places of worship, for fear that by revealing themselves as faithful Catholics they will suffer the same abuses that they witness other believers suffer at the hands of the Chinese authorities’ increasingly aggressive atheism.

In Hong Kong, the local government’s recent imposition of a Beijing-mandated National Security Law raises the specter that the Party will use the same tactics of intimidation and the full apparatus of state repression against religious believers. Hong Kong’s most prominent voices for human dignity and human rights have often been Catholics, so it is no surprise that prominent Catholics like Martin Lee, the “father of democracy” in Hong Kong, and Jimmy Lai, an outspoken media baron and promoter of democracy, have been arrested, spied on, and harassed for the simple “crime” of advocating the basic freedoms Beijing promised to protect in exchange for regaining sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997. I know both men and can attest to their goodness and sincerity of heart. Their devotion to God, to all God’s children, and to a peaceful, free, and prosperous China is undeniable.

Many nations have joined the United States in expressing revulsion at the Chinese regime’s accelerating violations of human rights, including religious freedom. Last year, 22 nations sent a letter to the U.N. Human Rights Council to denounce the CCP’s detention of more than a million Uyghur Muslims, ethnic Kazakhs, and other minorities in so-called “re-education” camps in Xinjiang. The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which includes legislators from democracies around the world, has deplored the Party’s “unfolding atrocities.” The State Department has been a strong voice for religious freedom in China and around the world and has taken steps to hold those who abuse the faithful responsible for their actions. We will continue to do so.

The Holy See has a unique capacity and duty to focus the world’s attention on human rights violations, especially those perpetrated by totalitarian regimes like Beijing’s. In the late twentieth century, the Church’s power of moral witness helped inspire those who liberated central and eastern Europe from communism, and those who challenged autocratic and authoritarian regimes in Latin America and East Asia.

That same power of moral witness should be deployed today with respect to the Chinese Communist Party. The Second Vatican Council and Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis have taught that religious freedom is the first of civil rights. Solidarity is one of the four foundational principles of Catholic social doctrine. What the Church teaches the world about religious freedom and solidarity should now be forcefully and persistently conveyed by the Vatican in the face of the Chinese Communist Party’s relentless efforts to bend all religious communities to the will of the Party and its totalitarian program.

Pope Francis said in 2013 that “Christians must respond to evil with good, taking the Cross upon themselves as Jesus did.” History teaches us that totalitarian regimes can only survive in darkness and silence, their crimes and brutality unnoticed and unremarked. If the Chinese Communist Party manages to bring the Catholic Church and other religious communities to heel, regimes that disdain human rights will be emboldened, and the cost of resisting tyranny will rise for all brave religious believers who honor God above the autocrat of the day. I pray that, in dealing with the Chinese Communist Party, the Holy See and all who believe in the divine spark enlightening every human life will heed Jesus’s words in the Gospel of John, “The truth will set you free.”

Michael R. Pompeo is U.S. Secretary of State.

www.firstthings.com

EU, letter to vice president Schinas. Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief: Call to appoint a candidate with a strong human rights record.

Mandate of the EU Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief:

Call to improvetransparency and to appoint a candidate with a strong human rights record

READ THE LETTER

Moral Theologian Criticizes ‘Vague’ Pontifical Academy COVID-19 Document

Father George Woodall highlighted several aspects of the document, including what he called its ‘rambling’ text and ‘vague, superficial and generic’ moral principles.

VATICAN CITY — A former director of the secretariat of the Pontifical Academy for Life has criticized a document the academy issued on the coronavirus last month, saying that although some of its considerations were important, he wondered why it was published and what it was supposed to achieve.

Father George Woodall told the Register the moral principles highlighted in the document Humana Communitas in the age of pandemic: untimely meditations on life’s rebirth published on July 22 were “vague, superficial and generic” and that the text was “rambling, excessively long and verbose.”

A number of commentators have also criticized the document, describing it as “embarrassing” and more closely resembling a work of sociology than anything distinctly Christian.

Father Woodall, a moral theologian who teaches at the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, welcomed some aspects of the document, namely “the nature of the virus, the need for focused, careful research to find a suitable vaccine” and the call for greater justice, including equitable allocation of medical resources.

But he said he would have preferred the lengthy reflection to have shared scientific developments since the academy’s last reflection on COVID-19 was issued in March, a brief comparison with earlier pandemics, and an “objective statement on the proper role” of government and health authorities, including a “careful examination of the application of subsidiarity and of solidarity” and the limits of the state in such times.

Father Woodall said he also would have liked to have seen a “clearly Christian perspective” in the document.

In its 4,000-word reflection, the Pontifical Academy for Life drew attention to the “hard reality of lessons learned” from the crisis including that COVID-19 has highlighted how fragile man is, and that its cause “has much to do with our depredation of the earth and the despoiling of its intrinsic value.”

The academy also blamed the pandemic on other causes, such as “financial greed, the self-indulgence of life styles defined by consumption indulgence and excess.” The pandemic, it said, is a call to “reconsider our relation to the natural habitat, to recognize that we dwell on this earth as stewards, not as masters and lords.”

The document argued that poor countries in the global south face a greater predicament than the richer north, unable to “afford the requirements of safety.” Although rich and poor are vulnerable to the virus, it said the latter are “bound to pay the highest price and to bear the long-term consequences of lack of cooperation.”

It went on to call for solidarity with especially the elderly and those most at risk, the need for “moral conversion,” to become “mindful, once more, of the goodness of life that offers itself to us.” A pandemic, it added, “urges all of us to address and reshape structural dimensions of our global community that are oppressive and unjust, those that a faith understanding refers to as ‘structures of sin.’”

The document then argued further for “global efforts and international cooperation,” saying a “privileged place belongs to the World Health Organization” and that “narrow mindedness and national self-interests” had led to policies of “independence and isolation from the rest of the world, as if the pandemic could be faced without a coordinated global strategy” — comments no doubt directed at the Trump administration, which has formally withdrawn from its relationship with the WHO.

The document ended with a call for ethics centered on the principle of solidarity and an “attitude of hope” that resists two opposing temptations: passive resignation and nostalgia for the past. “Instead, it is time to imagine and implement a project of human coexistence that allows a better future for each and every one,” the document concluded, and it recalled the “dream recently envisaged for the Amazon region” which, it said, “might become a universal dream” for the whole planet.

Father Woodall’s criticisms follow others, notably Philip Lawler of Catholic Culture and professor Stefano Fontana, director of the Cardinal Van Thuan Observatory on the Social Doctrine of the Church, who both noted that the document fails to mention God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Church, the sacraments, prayer or even charity. The document, Fontana wrote, appeared to be written by an “anonymous institute of sociological studies.”

The academy’s spokesman Fabrizio Mastrofini, responded to the criticism, saying in a statement that the academy was doing the work of “constant discernment” of the “faith, the Gospel, the passion for humanity” within the context of the “events of our time.”

He added that the two documents written on the pandemic need to be read together with Pope Francis’ letter to the academy in 2019 entitled Humana Communitaswhich, he said, “illustrate the challenges to life in today’s context.”

Mastrofini said he did not know whether an “accounting” of how many times key words were used in the text was “useful” but rather it is important “to enter into human situations, reading them in the light of faith, and in a way that speaks to the widest possible audience, to believers and non-believers, to all men and women ‘of good will.’”

Led by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia since 2016, the Pontifical Academy for Life has received other criticisms in recent years for departing from its remit given by John Paul II to defend and promote the Church’s consistent life ethic. Since taking the helm, Archbishop Paglia has replaced many long-serving members, and in new statutes issued in 2017, removed a requirement for new members to sign a statement promising to defend life in conformity with the Church’s magisterium. He also appointed some controversial new members of the academy, including a supporter of abortion up to 18 weeks.

 

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Brief Reflections on the Pontifical Academy for Life document Humana Communitas in the age of pandemic: untimely meditations on life’s rebirth by Father George Woodall, professor of moral theology and bioethics at Rome’s Regina Apostolorum university and a former director of the secretariat of the Pontifical Academy for Life.

The point made by the Press Office of the Academy that it is to be read in the light of the earlier documents mentioned can be accepted, but that does not answer the question as to why this further document was issued or what in particular it was supposed to achieve.

The criticism that it does not mention Jesus, faith, religion, etc., might have been answered by saying that it is necessary to use a natural moral law in the sense of offering rational considerations which might be accessible also to those not belonging to the Christian community. The text makes no express reference to natural law, but it might be thought that the considerations offered fall broadly into that category. Apart from references to Ps. 8, to Laudato Si’, to moral conversion, there is very little in it that would suggest that it had either a Christian origin or a Christian perspective. Indeed, the sentence “Too late do we learn consent to the darkness from which we came, and to which we finally return” seems impossible to reconcile with the resurrection and with Christian hope. Someone reading the document without knowing that it had been produced by the Pontifical Academy for Life could be forgiven for thinking that it was the product of some politically motivated group of ecologists.

Many of the ‘moral principles’ noted are vague, superficial and generic. The text is rambling, excessively long and verbose; the language and style used in it are flowery and would be largely inaccessible to many readers even in the Global North.

Some of the considerations raised are important: the nature of the virus, the need for focused, careful research to find a suitable vaccine, the more requirement of justice, including that of the common good, demanding that this be made accessible to all those who may need it, the question of the existence or otherwise of adequate medical resources to confront the crisis provoked by the pandemic and that of the  allocation of resources, the inter-relationship between the principles of subsidiarity and of solidarity.

From the Pontifical Academy for Life a text with substance and yet succinct would have been preferable, one which presented more carefully:

  1. What scientific data have become available since the last document as to the origin, the nature, the variants or mutations of the virus, would have been welcome. Highly qualified scientific members from across the world could have been asked for up-dated data and qualified assessments.
  2. A brief comparison of current knowledge about the virus with that known of earlier pandemics (the plague, smallpox, cholera, the Spanish flu) and a brief up-date on what is known so far of factors fostering the spread of the virus and those restraining it (again from expert members and qualified sources).
  3. An objective statement of the proper role of government, especially of public health authorities in the case of a current or an imminent threat to public health (including legitimate restrictions to democratic procedure through a clear distinction between ius and usus iuris, the need for clear, precise and justifiable police and judicial regulations to be established by government through transparent procedures, how they are to be followed and enforced), which must include the effective control of frontiers (since travel, whether business, leisure or migratory is objectively a risk factor of importance in given countries at specific times). Here a careful examination of the application of subsidiarity and of solidarity, of the authority of the State and of its limits even in such times, would have been helpful. In this context, for example, the following could have been analysed, mostly to show how they could help to contain and overcome this and other possible pandemics: the curtailing of public health services in many countries over recent decades, the closure of isolation hospitals, the lack of barrier-nursing techniques; circumstances which would justify and demand strict quarantine (isolation in medical facilities), precautionary quarantine for contacts of those tested positive or at high risk through a specific instance; the need to prevent access to very vulnerable groups (which, whom, why, in what way, for how long?), including those in hospital for other reasons, those needing to see a doctor, those in residential and or care homes, the care of medical staff themselves.
  4. A clearly Christian perspective on all of this. It is lamentable that the Academy did not use here the keystones of Evangelium vitae in the twenty-fifth jubilee year of that stupendous encyclical on the Gospel of life: the meaning of life, suffering, death, eternal life, as well as the service of the good of health, and of the proper but limited role of public authorities in its regard. Even if other documents have been issued, still this encyclical, long, but full of sound content, solid moral argumentation and Christian hope, would have provided what is missing from this text.

G.J. Woodall
31st July, 2020

www.ncregister.com

A Protestant Defense of the Common Good. By Jordan J. Ballor

Much like the related concept of social justice, contemporary discussions of the common good have been fraught with misunderstanding, dismissal, and polemic. The theoretical relationship of the individual to the community represents a challenge for constructive engagement with the common good for many today. There is an ongoing skepticism of ideas such as the common good and social justice because of their association, arising at least partially out of the crucible of the Cold War, with communism and socialism. Good and proper concern for the inviolable dignity of the individual human person unfortunately can lead to rejection of the reality of social structures, institutions, and communities, as well as corresponding moral duties. Atomistic individualism really only allows for aggregate conceptions of goods rather than for communal goods that are in some sense greater than the particular constitutive elements.

Another challenge to the salience of the common good today comes from certain perspectives within Protestantism that identify the idea with Roman Catholicism, particularly Thomas Aquinas. Because of these associations, such challenges reject the common good as an interloper into genuine Christian (that is, Reformed Protestant) reflection. As part of their critical engagement with Roman Catholic social thought, James W. Skillen and Rockne M. McCarthy judge that “the combined weight of the idea of the common good and the concepts of subsidiarity and autonomy within a natural law framework do not supply an adequate, normative view of both the diversity and the complex unity of society.” Instead of this Roman Catholic perspective, which is understood as a problematic “pattern of synthesizing ancient and modern philosophical perspectives under the guiding moral eye of the Church,” a more thoroughly and characteristically Protestant perspective—defined best as “progressive Calvinism”—is to be preferred.

One final difficulty with the common good at a conceptual level has to do with abstraction. We think on a greater and greater level of abstraction as we examine the common goods of larger and more extended communities. The common good of procreation in the context of marriage is fairly concrete; the common good of distributive justice for a large multinational corporation, rather less so; and the common good of love within the human race, still less. One cannot simply wake up in the morning and pursue “the common good” in the same way that one might wake up and brew a cup of coffee or scramble an egg or brush one’s teeth. This phenomenon of abstraction does not mean that the common good as such or common goods are meaningless; but it does mean that such ideas are not sufficient in themselves for either individual moral guidance or for the formation of institutional and public policies. As Joseph E. Capizzi and V. Bradley Lewis put it recently at Public Discourse, “Debates about philosophical fine points related to the concept of the common good are no substitute for analysis of which constitutional structures, laws, and policies best promote and protect the common good.”

None of these challenges to the idea of the common good or to common-good reasoning, on their own or even taken together, constitute adequate grounds for rejecting this traditional framework for theological and moral discourse. This is true for Protestants as well as Roman Catholics. Concerns about the common good, however, do provide excellent motivation for sharpening our conceptual treatments of the common good taken in an abstract, singular sense and its relationship to more concrete and pluriform common goods.

Common Goods and the Community

Most English bibles include one instance of the phrase “the common good.” It appears at the end of 1 Corinthians 12:7, which reads in the English Standard Version: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” The Apostle Paul is describing to the church in Corinth the manifold work of the Holy Spirit in providing people with gifts, talents, abilities, and dispositions to serve God through serving one another. Verse 7 is the apex of the passage, which opens with Paul’s assertion that “there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” Verse 7 provides a summary of the purpose of these diverse gifts: they are provided in various degrees, measures, and distributions for each person to promote “the common good.” The rest of the passage details some specific examples of divine gifts, such as the “utterance of wisdom,” and the “utterance of knowledge,” as well as “faith,” “gifts of healing,” and “prophecy.” As Paul concludes, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

From the context of this passage in 1 Corinthians it is clear that Paul is talking directly about the “common good” of the Christian church, the body of believers in Jesus Christ. In this way the language of the common good here refers to one of the classic ways that the phrase has been understood in the Christian and broader Western ethical tradition. In cases like this, the common good refers to the good that is characteristic of a particular community. There are as many common goods in this sense as there are communities, although each community has distinctive features constitutive of its highest good. The common goods that define different communities are related to the divine purposes for those communities. These highest goods are in some sense the reasons these communities exist and the purposes for which they have been created by God.

We might think of marriage as an example of such a community, willed by God into existence in his act of creation and woven into the fabric of human nature. The Anglican tradition has understood marriage as having characteristic goods including procreation, the avoidance of sexual sin, and the “mutual society, help, and comfort” of the spouses. Each one of these is a good that pertains to the community of marriage itself and can thus be understood as among the “common goods” of marriage. This is not to say that these are the only good things that marriage promotes or produces; clearly there are many other purposes that marriages can and do serve in society. It is to say, however, that these goods are somehow constitutive or definitive of this particular kind of community and that in some sense marriage has the realization of these goods as its primary purpose.

The Bible also speaks of what we might call common goods of a different sort: the gifts that God grants to everyone indiscriminately and promiscuously. These are the kinds of goods that are typically enjoyed directly and without mediation. Jesus talks about such divine gifts when he says that God “makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). Sunlight, water, food, and air are examples of God’s gifts of common grace that are provided to human beings simply as created beings. They are goods whose enjoyment we share with animals and plants and are characteristic of our needs as created beings.

If we were to try to synthesize these two rather different ways of talking about common goods, we might say that things like rainwater, sunlight, and breathable air are common goods constitutive of the community of creation itself. To make sense of common goods, we have to determine the relevant communal context.

Even though in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul is talking about the church as such, there is a long tradition seeing this portion of his letter and other related passages as informing how Christians relate to their fellow human beings. Paul continues, for example, later in chapter 12 of 1 Corinthians to use the imagery of one “body” with many “members” to describe the church and the relationships of individual Christians to one another and to Christ. If this kind of organic relationship defines the Christian community, there are also analogous dynamics at work in other communities, such as society more broadly.

Just as Paul talks about “the body of Christ” to refer to the community of Christian believers, we also refer to things such as “the body politic” to refer to the political community and its members. Paul enjoins a universal mandate for Christians to seek the common good beyond the confines of the Christian community in numerous places, notably in Galatians 6:10, which reads, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” At work here is a distinction between “everyone” and “the household of faith,” the latter of which holds a kind of moral primacy given the spiritual proximity and unity of believers. But even so, the common good more broadly is to be the concern of this “household of faith” as well.

The Puritan pastor and theologian Richard Baxter (1615–1691) takes this Pauline directive as the basis for an extended treatment of the prudential concerns that complicate this universal calling. In How to Do Good to Many, Baxter writes that “to do good to all is all men’s duty.” This promotion of the common good of all of humanity applies particularly to Christians because they have been brought to life again and equipped to do good works and to glorify God in those good works. Even as all human beings are part of the human community and have corresponding moral obligations, Christians have especially been enabled by God to make such goods manifest. Speaking of the common good, he writes, “All men should do it: true Christians can do it, through grace, and must do it, and will do it. A good man is a common good.” Picking up on the Pauline imagery of a communal “body,” Baxter observes: “Every grace tends to well-doing and to the good of the whole body, for which each single member is made.” Each individual person has something unique to contribute to the common good of the various communities to which he or she belongs.

The Ultimate Common Good

The identification and definition of the relevant community is absolutely necessary for a proper evaluation of a particular common good. Even with the aid of special revelation this is no easy task. We can confidently identify the biblical picture of marriage as the one-flesh union of male and female as the traditional Christian view, but this is a definition of this community that is under unique and sustained assault today, not least from within churches and religious communities themselves. Nowadays we can rarely hope to judge by pointing with Paul to practices that are not “tolerated even among the pagans” (1 Cor. 5:1).

We need to think more deeply about common goods and “the common good” because these ideas actually do help provide normative guidance for living. When we have identified the created purposes of a social structure or institution, we can use that as a way of understanding whether a concrete expression of that community is living up to its divine mandate.

A helpful image for understanding the relationship of common goods in this sense is to picture a garden in which a wide variety of plants are growing and flourishing. There are different conditions and care that different plants need, and they all produce different kinds of fruit, flowers, and growth. Each family of plants contributes to the common good of the garden, but that larger common good is not simply an aggregation of all the individual plants in the garden. The pollen produced by one kind of plant helps others to flourish; the shade produced by a tree allows smaller plants to grow. The garden is a complex and dynamic ecosystem, and each leaf, each branch, each plant has something to contribute to the common good of the garden.

If we apply this image to the created order itself, we can get a sense of what the greatest “common good” of creation might be like. And yet even this is in some deep sense a finite (that is, created) good. There is still yet a greater common good that we have to identify. We need to know the one who made the garden and has provided for its care.

One final distinction may help in this regard, and that is the distinction between ultimate, spiritual, and eternal goods, and penultimate, finite, and temporal goods. As we read in James, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (1:17). God himself, the giver of all good gifts, is the ultimate common good.

The challenge of relating the various common goods of created communities to God, our ultimate and eternal common good, is in fact another way of talking about the basic purpose of human life. Augustine long ago pointed out that all created goods, common goods included, are really to be used appropriately and justly as means to enjoying God himself.

Thus we might say that the chief end of humanity is to pursue the ultimate common good, God, with a right ordering of all penultimate common goods—or rather more elegantly, “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Jordan J. Ballor

www.thepublicdiscourse.com

 

Covid-19 and the Limits of Obedience. By Eric Sammons

The response to Covid-19 has resulted in a flood of restrictions on our behavior and activities, including within the Church. Initially, the bishops in the United States suspended the public celebration of Mass. If you weren’t a cleric, then it’s unlikely you could go to Mass anywhere in America from mid-March to mid-May. Then dioceses slowly began to re-open parishes, but often with many restrictions. Some of these were relatively uncontroversial—no holding hands at the Our Father, for example. But in some places a few of the new restrictions were met with resistance. I am referring, in particular, to the banning of Communion on the tongue and the requiring of masks or “contact tracing,” or both, in order to attend Mass.

Many well-intentioned Catholics support these restrictions by arguing that (1) the bishop has the authority to make these restrictions, and (2) the restrictions aren’t a big deal, so what’s the fuss about? And so resistance to these restrictions by lay Catholics appears to many to be the sin of disobedience, as well as proof of a spirit of pride. Catholics, after all, believe in obedience to authority.

These calls to obedience, however, have shown a misunderstanding of that virtue, as well as the limits the virtue places upon both the subject and the superior.

In his Pocket Catholic Dictionary, Father John Hardon defines obedience as “[t]he moral virtue that inclines the will to comply with the will of another who has the right to command.” It is that last part of the definition—“who has the right to command”—which is often forgotten or misunderstood. There are two components that give someone the right to command: the “who” commanding and the “what” being commanded.

First, the “who.” Is the person in a position of authority? If a stranger were to walk up to you and command you to mow his grass, you would have no obligation to obey that command, even if that stranger were the Commander of the Army (assuming you’re not in the Army, of course). A person must be given authority over you, either by another authority or voluntarily by you, in order to demand your obedience.

The second aspect of who has the right to command is less clear: the “what.” Is the action being commanded within the superior’s sphere of authority? Saint Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica notes that only God has the right to complete obedience from men and women (cf. II-II, Q. 104, Art. 4). We are not bound to obey even our legitimate superiors in all things (II-II, Q. 104, Art. 5). Particularly, the Angelic Doctor notes that “a subject is bound to obey his superior within the sphere of his authority.” In other words, if your boss at work commanded you to mow his lawn, and this was not in your employment contract, then you would have no obligation to obey that command. It is outside his sphere of authority, even though he is your legitimate superior at your place of employment. Or if your 16th-century English bishop asks you, a priest, to go along with King Henry’s new edict…

It’s important to note also what is not in this definition of authority, i.e., the level of inconvenience imposed. Often today you will hear arguments that we should obey a command because it’s easy to follow (“It’s just a mask”), implying that since it wouldn’t be a major inconvenience to obey, it would only be sinful pride that would cause us to disobey the order. How can we complain about giving our name at the door, for example, when Christians in the Middle East risk their lives at times to attend Mass?

The inconvenience imposed is irrelevant to whether a command must be obeyed. A commanding officer can order his troops to run into heavy gunfire and he should be obeyed, whereas a neighbor who tells you to wear a blue shirt on Wednesday does not have to be obeyed, even though what he is asking is easy to accomplish.

The Church is Not a Cult

Applying the virtue of obedience in real life, therefore, is complex. Think about the many facets of obedience in a well-ordered Church and society. Some examples include a vowed religious to his superior; a priest to his bishop; a bishop to the pope; a lay Catholic to his parish priest, bishop, or pope; a citizen to the state; a member of the armed forces to his commanding officer; a wife to her husband; and an employee to his employer

In each of these cases, different spheres of authority apply. While a religious superior has wide latitude in giving commands to a religious who has taken a vow of obedience (though even then there are reasonable limits), in other cases the sphere of authority is much more limited. In each situation, our God-given use of reason is paramount. Before obeying a command we must determine if the person has authority over us and what his sphere of authority is. Oftentimes this is done easily and automatically, but in some cases it might not be so clear.

Consider the obligation of obedience of a lay person toward his parish priest, his bishop, or the pope. Although there is the old saying that the lay Catholic has three duties—pray, pay, and obey—the “obey” part is not absolute, as lay people take no vows of obedience. A parish priest cannot command a lay person to wash his car, for example; not even the pope can do that. The hierarchy has real authority over lay people, but that authority is within a limited sphere.

A cleric’s authority is limited by three primary factors. First, his authority over the laity only covers the practice of the Catholic Faith. He does not have the authority, for example, to tell a lay person where to live or where to work (unless that work, of course, directly contradicts the Catholic Faith, such as working at an abortion clinic). Second, a cleric’s authority does not supersede a higher authority in the Church; for example, a parish priest cannot command a lay person to do something contrary to the directives of the bishop (or the pope). Third, a cleric’s authority—even the pope’s—is limited by Church teaching and canon law. The pope cannot command priests to use orange juice instead of wine when celebrating Mass.

While it might make practicing Catholics uneasy to acknowledge there are limits to a lay Catholic’s obedience to Church authorities, it is these limitations that keep Catholicism from degenerating into a cult. The mark of a cult is that it demands total obedience to the leader or leaders, even if doing so is sinful or contrary to reason. Yet Christianity has always exalted the use of reason, not against faith, but in the service of it.

Making the Sacraments Available

Here we get to the application of reason to the recent restrictions placed upon Catholics for receiving the Sacraments. Can a priest forbid the reception of Communion on the tongue? Can a bishop require masks or contact-tracing to attend Mass?

When it comes to restricting Communion on the tongue, the answer is clear-cut: a priest or even bishop has no authority to deny Communion to someone if he wants to receive on the tongue. Current Church law considers Communion on the tongue as the normative way to receive, and does not give bishops or priests the authority to overrule that. Further, Canon 843.1 states, “Sacred ministers may not deny the sacraments to those who opportunely ask for them, are properly disposed and are not prohibited by law from receiving them.” Note the presumption in favor of a person receiving the Sacraments; they cannot be denied to someone who wishes to receive in the normative way the Church has established to receive, no matter what a priest or bishop may say.

What about the requirement to wear masks or participate in contact-tracing? Here the answer is less clear-cut. According to the Canon just stated, a person cannot be denied the Sacraments if he is “properly disposed.” Some would argue that someone who is not wearing a mask contrary to his bishop’s directive is therefore not “properly disposed.” But this is begging the question, since it’s unclear if the bishop has the authority to make such a directive. Further, if we allow bishops and pastors to require masks for medical reasons, are there limits to this?

People who are obese are more susceptible to Covid-19 and more likely to develop severe symptoms, and thus are more likely to use hospital resources. So should parishes check a person’s body fat ratio before allowing someone to enter? If someone has over 25 percent body fat, is he to be denied the Sacraments, all in the name of the common good and safety? Do the bishops have that authority? Some might object that this example is absurd, but based on the arguments many are giving for mask requirements at church, it follows the same logic: a bishop has total and complete authority to restrict the Sacraments if he thinks it is for the common (medical) good. Just six months ago, many would have thought requiring masks and sign-ins would be absurd.

I do not have all the answers when it comes to the exact limits of authority for our bishops and priests. But I do know there are limits, and both the hierarchy and the laity must acknowledge and respect those limits. The Sacraments are the ordinary means of salvation, and, as such, the Church must do all it can to bring these salvific means to the faithful, no matter the cost. As seen in Canon 843.1, the presumption should always be in favor of a person receiving the Sacraments, unless there is a clear barrier to that reception. Before quickly embracing every restriction suggested by politicians and certain scientists, bishops and priests should do all they can to make the Sacraments easily available to the people, particularly in this time of unrest and uncertainty.

Eric Sammons

www.crisismagazine.com

 

The COVID Coup. By Angelo Codevilla.

Panicked by fears manufactured by the ruling class, the American people assented to being put essentially under house arrest until further notice, effectively suspending the habits, preferences, and liberties that had defined our way of life. Most Americans have suffered economic damage. Many who do not enjoy protected status have had careers ended and been reduced to penury. Social strains and suicides multiplied. Forcibly deferring all manner of medical care is sure to impose needless suffering and death. In sum, the lockdowns’ medical and economic dysfunctions make for multiples of the deaths and miseries of the COVID-19 virus itself.

Bad judgments and usurpations—the scam, not the germs—define this disaster’s dimensions. The COVID-19’s devastating effect on the U.S. body politic is analogous to what diseases do to persons whom age (senectus ipsa est morbus) and various debilities and corruptions had already placed on death’s slippery slope.

Outside of the few who have gained (and are still gaining) power and wealth from the panic, Americans are asking what it will take to end this outrage—not to modify it with any “new normal” decided by who knows whom, on who knows what authority. Since no one in authority is leading those who want to end it, Americans also wonder who may lead that cause. What follows suggests answers.

What history will record as the great COVID scam of 2020 is based on 1) a set of untruths and baseless assertions—often outright lies—about the novel coronavirus and its effects; 2) the production and maintenance of physical fear through a near-monopoly of communications to forestall challenges to the U.S.. ruling class, led by the Democratic Party, 3) defaulted opposition on the part of most Republicans, thus confirming their status as the ruling class’s junior partner. No default has been greater than that of America’s Christian churches—supposedly society’s guardians of truth.

Truth

Since obfuscation, pretense, and lies concerning the COVID-19 are the effective agents of the panic and of the seizure of arbitrary power, truth and clarity about it are the foundational requirements for escaping its effects. Here is a dose.

From early March 2020 on, the best-known authorities on epidemics—the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control—presented the COVID-19 respiratory disease to the Western world as a danger equivalent to the plague. But China’s experience, which its government obfuscated, had already shown that the COVID-19 virus is much less like the plague and more like the flu. All that has happened since followed from falsifying this basic truth.

Our “best and brightest,” at first having minimized fears of person-to person contagion during January and February, during which the disease spread from China to the West, then declared that the virus is unusually contagious, and posited—on zero factual basis—that it would kill up to one in twenty persons it infected—5% infection/fatality rate (IFR). Based on that imagined fatality rate, they adopted mathematical models from Britain and the University of Washington that predicted that up to two million Americans would die of it.

The U.S. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) modeled the authoritative predictions on which the U.S. lockdowns were based. Its model also predicted COVID deaths for un-locked-down Sweden. On May 3 it wrote that, as of May 14, Sweden would suffer up to 2800 daily deaths. The actual number was below 40. Whether magnifying this falsehood was reckless or willful, it amounted to shouting “fire!” in a crowded theater. What justifies listening to, and paying, people who do that kind of science?

Establishing any infectious disease’s true lethality is characteristically straightforward: test a large sample of the population proportionately representative of location, age, sex, race, socioeconomic categories. Follow up with the subjects a month later to add up the rate of infections and learn the results thereof. Period. Today, we still lack this definitive,direct knowledge of COVID’s true lethality because bureaucrats have prevented widespread testing for the purpose of firmly establishing the one figure that matters most. That is because that figure’s absence allows them to continue fearmongering.

In May the Centers for Disease Control, by then discredited professionally (though not, alas, in the mass media), was forced to conclude that the lethality rate, far from being circa 5% was 0.26%. Double a typical flu. The CDC was able to keep the estimate that high only by factoring in an unrealistically low figure for asymptomatic infections—never mind inflated figures for deaths. But the U.S. government, instead of amending its recommendations in the face of reality, tried to hide reality by playing a shell game with the definition and number of COVID “cases.”

During March and April, the authorities had defined as “cases” people sick enough to be hospitalized, who also tested positive. Whoever divided the number of reported deaths (a number inflated by a CDC directive to count deaths due to other causes as being due to COVID) by the number of cases thus defined, was predictably scared and willing to heed “the best advice”—namely societal lockdowns—on how to stay safe. That turned out to be ruinous in and of itself. At the time, they defined the number of these “cases” as the “curve” which we were supposed to sacrifice so much to “flatten,” lest the wave of hospitalizations overwhelm our health care system. Because their premises were wrong, that wave never came.

Instead, in May, as various non-official surveys were published showing that the majority of those who tested positive for COVID either barely knew that they had been infected or had not known at all, these very authorities doubled down their dishonesty. They began labeling mere infections as “cases.” They divorced reporting of these “cases” from reporting of the number of deaths, and warned the inattentive public about “spiking COVID cases” as if infection carried a serious risk. They also promoted widespread testing of wholly asymptomatic persons for current and past infections, the results of which tests were sure to produce a surging number of new “cases” thus defined.

And they toyed with reporting deaths by attributing to COVID any that “involved” or looked as if they might have involved it. They then included pneumonia, influenza, and COVID into the category PIC. That is how the death figure came to exceed 100,000. But if the CDC had used the same criterion that it did with the SARS virus, namely “severe acute respiratory distress syndrome,” the figure by the end of June would have been some 16,000.

Such naked ploys could succeed only because the media colluded in them. The New York Times’ May 27 lead story ominously blared: “California is the fourth state with more than 100,000 known cases.” Meanwhile, the number of deaths attributed to COVID continued dropping from ever-lower bases. By the July 1, even using the CDC’s inflated figures for COVID-responsible deaths, COVID-19’s Infection Fatality Rate for people under 70 was 0.04%. But rather than ask how clarion calls of danger comport with decreasing reports of deaths that may somehow be associated with it, the ruling class agitated to reverse returning to normal life. Be afraid, be very afraid. Heads the House wins, tails you lose.

Irrefutable if indirect indication that COVID is no plague also comes from comparison between the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 during any given period with the number of deaths due to all causes for the same period—despite official inflation in the number of deaths attributed to the virus.

The Imperial College, London’s tally for Great Britain, broken down by age of death, shows that the chances of dying from COVID-19 infection roughly track the chances of death from all causes at any given age, except for the very young. For men, the chances of death co-incident with the virus don’t exceed 1%, or the average death rate, until age 70. For women, they don’t exceed the average death rate until close to age 90. In Spain, the death rate for infected persons over 90 years old was 10%.

The measure of “excess deaths” tells a similar story. During the six-week peak of the COVID event in 2020, deaths in the U.S. exceeded deaths during the same period in the previous year by 82,000. Considering that, concurrently, the 2020 flu season was one of the worst on record (typically the flu is responsible for some 50,000 deaths during the season) and given the CDC-mandated conflation of COVID numbers with others, the COVID-19 pandemic in and of itself did not amount to much—except in New York City, for reasons only partly known. By the week of June 20, 2020 the CDC was reporting ZERO excess deaths—meaning that the figure for weekly deaths was within the long-term normal curve for that time of the year.

Not incidentally, in 1957 some 116,000 Americans (out of a population two thirds of today’s size) died of the flu. Ten years later, the toll was 100,000 and in 2019 it was 61,000. By June 2020 the (inflated) toll from COVID-19 stood at 100,000.

In short, COVID-19 is not America’s plague. It did not shake America. The ruling class shook it. They have not done it ignorantly or by mistake. They have done it to extort the general public’s compliance with their agendas. Their claim to speak on behalf of “science” is an attempt to avoid being held accountable for the enormous harm they are doing. They continue doing it because they want to hang on to the power the panic has brought them.

BTW: Whenever you hear someone claiming to speak on science’s behalf, referring to authorities rather than to facts and logic, you may be sure that person is a fraud.

Falsehood

Falsehood extorted shutdowns, which caused deaths and ruined lives.

“Lockdowns” of the general population had to be based on the premise that everyone is, if not equally vulnerable, then equally responsible, and hence that everyone must stay cooped up to contribute to everyone else’s safety. But because every word of that is contrary to reality, false, a lie, applying the lockdowns’ force to society has caused needless deaths and suffering.

Prefatory to considering the lockdowns’ specific effects, we must be clear about what separation of infected or possibly infected persons from presumably un-infected ones can and cannot do. This has been known to whomever wished to know it since the Middle Ages, and repeated even in the humble 1956 study guide for the Boy Scout Public Health merit badge: protecting the un-infected from infection by limiting their contact with those who may be infected depends on knowing that the people to be protected really are un-infected.

Medieval Venetians, to make sure that no one coming from places infected by the plague would bring it into the city, prevented debarking from ships coming from such places for forty days (quarantine). By the same token, quickly finding the few infected among the many un-infected, and removing them even faster along with those with whom they had been in contact (known these days as contact tracing), is effective only to the extent of the bulk of the population’s near-virginity.

But, once an infectious disease has spread within a population, quarantines and associated measures are a waste at best. Personal hygiene and minimizing contact (what we now call social distancing) retain all their natural importance for reducing any given individual’s chances of infection to some extent—perhaps even delaying chances of exposure until the disease has run its course. But, once a contagion is rooted in a population, these measures make no difference to general public health. The disease running its course means, in part, that enough people have been infected and hence will have developed immunity, that they can no longer transmit it to others (herd immunity).

That is how human communities have lived with and through history’s countless epidemics. We have seen this once again in how COVID-19 affected Sweden and U.S. states (e.g. South Dakota and Arkansas) that never did shut down. When COVID-19 hit Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel said that, regardless of what anyone did, some 70% of Germans would eventually become infected. And that would be that.

Isolation makes the biggest of differences, however, to sub-categories of the population that may be especially vulnerable to the disease. The Bubonic Plague was an equal-opportunity killer, as was Smallpox. COVID-19, however, seems to discriminate a lot. Yes, all diseases are most noxious to those already most debilitated. But this one seems to have done so more than most.

In Italy, 99.1% of those who died with or of COVID-19 also suffered from other diseases. But this virus obviously has a special predilection for those with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, compromised lungs, and most of all for the very old—to the point that a study by Germany’s Ministry of the Interior asked whether it made any sense to ascribe to any cause the deaths of persons whose bodies were in the process of shutting down anyhow. By contrast, COVID-19’s effect on ordinary healthy persons is considerably milder than those of ordinary respiratory diseases. What sense, then, could general isolation ever have made in the context of COVID-19?

It made some sense in the context of the U.S. ruling class’s (tragically wrong) assumptions/pretenses/convictions (take your pick) that the COVID-19 is so infectious as well as plague-like in its lethal danger to the general population, that a wave of desperately ill and dying patients would submerge American hospitals unless its natural course were slowed. Hence all medical decks had to be cleared of all other activities, emergency hospitals had to be constructed in the parks, and the Navy’s hospital ships had to be brought in.

As we have seen, there was never the slightest evidence that the COVID-19 virus could produce mass casualties. From the first, all evidence pointed in the opposite direction. Even in New York, where Governor Cuomo hyperventilated panic, the hospitals in the park and the Navy’s hospital ship were virtually empty.

But the ruling class’s attachment to its assumptions/pretenses/convictions overrode the obvious truth that the elderly and infirm should have special isolation from contact with persons possibly infected with the virus and that the rest of the population should go about its business.

The U.S. authorities, the “experts,” the ruling class, chose to do precisely the opposite. They “locked down” a general population that is at virtually no risk, thereby delaying the virus’s spread to people it could not harm and whose infection would build herd immunity. Keeping millions of people indoors also worsened their health. Keeping people from interacting and working normally wrecked economic and social life.

Worst of all, these authorities, these experts, transferred elderly persons known to be infected with the virus into nursing homes. In Michigan, the authorities even assigned to a nursing home an aide known to be infected with the virus. As a result, the as-yet fully uncounted deaths in these facilities, which house about 1.3 million people (about 0.39% of the population) come to about half of the total U.S. death toll. That is what happened, and it is perverse. It deserves punishment.

Doubly so because of the cruelty with which it was done. As known virus carriers and unscreened persons were moved in, as the contagion raged, the debilitated, powerless inmates were prohibited visits from their families. These, being nearly all uninfected, would have posed no danger. Had the families been allowed to visit, they might have become aware of what was happening. As it was, they were powerless to save these innocents who, without advocates, were effectively condemned. One New York nurse was fired for objecting. Triply perverse, because some of the officials responsible—e.g. Pennsylvania’s Secretary of health—knew what they were doing enough to pull their own relatives out of danger.

Others, e.g. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who sent 4,500 COVID-infected patients from hospitals to nursing homes and blew off his responsibility for over 5,000 deaths with the words “people die,” later deflected responsibility onto what legitimately may be deemed to be national policy. He cited guidance from the Centers for Disease Control: “’Nursing homes should admit any individuals from hospitals where COVID is present.” Both the lockdown for ordinary people and the transfer of COVID carriers to nursing homes, said Cuomo, followed CDC recommendations. Cuomo did not resist the recommendation. He was occupied trying to score political points on Donald Trump.

In May Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal COVID team’s most influential MD, explained the counterproductive national lockdown of healthy people on national television. Earlier, he had said lockdowns were needed to preclude the overcrowding of hospitals. That having proved to be his gross professional error as an epidemiologist, he now said that extending the lockdowns was necessary to prevent so many apparently healthy young people from eventually infecting the old and infirm.

But there is zero evidence that apparently healthy (i.e. asymptomatic though infected) people infect others with the COVID-19. The evidence is that only symptomatic people (ones with coughs and sniffles) do, and that not through casual contact. Moreover, if separating known spreaders had been Fauci’s intention all along, why had the CDC ordered known COVID carriers to be shifted to nursing homes? At the very least, the man who drove the COVID team did it in a reckless manner that killed people. He too had other things on his mind—political ones.

Similarly, Governors from New York to Michigan and Illinois, to California, Oregon, and Washington have ordered citizens to stay indoors—which always was and once again proved to be the ideal environment for the transmission of respiratory viruses. Illinois’s governor criminalized more than two people in any boat. Californians have been arrested for walking on the beach, and New York City’s mayor threatened to pull swimmers out of the sea. All in the name of Science. Online searches find no science that shows viruses thriving in fresh air and sunshine, never mind in salt water. The mayor of Los Angeles ordered residents to wear masks at all times outdoors, though there is no evidence that this virus transmits through casual proximity anywhere, but especially outdoors.

In July, Anthony Fauci said that masks are necessary. But in March the same Fauci had said they did more harm than good—equally without the slightest scientific proof. Surreally, the L.A. Health Department specified that persons should wash their hands after putting on unwashed face coverings, and refrain from touching their faces—except to put on the face coverings that were supposed to make their hands dirty to begin with! Science, anybody? Fauci also guided governors to permit people to congregate by the hundreds at Walmart and Costco, but to forbid them to do so in churches. This fount of Science also gave his imprimatur to sex among strangers but advised Christians to refrain from Communion. Too intimate. What level of partisan credulity does it take to believe any of that?

One may also ask what level of partisan credulity it takes to take seriously such personages as the governors of New York, Michigan, and California and the mayors of Chicago and Los Angeles, who personally flout the regulations they try to impose on others. Restrictions for thee but not for me!

The answer really does lie in the depth of political party/class solidarity. The governors and officials who imposed, maintain, and rationalize the lockdowns are all but one (Ohio’s) Democrats. Their counter-factual assumptions/pretenses/convictions, their misrepresentations, their falsehoods and outright lies, are all about their social class’s effort to secure their privileges against an increasingly recalcitrant general population.

Politics

We begin by focusing on how seamlessly the Western world’s ruling class has translated the COVID-19 event into yet another of its weapons in the fight it has been waging this century against voters’ growing disaffection. Support for the lockdowns has become as integral to the American Establishment Left, i.e., to the Democratic Party, as belief in abortion, global warming, open borders, and censorship of whatever they choose to call “hate speech.” To understand this, one must realize that the ruling class’s campaign regarding public health, global warming, race, the rights of women, homosexuals, micro-aggressions, the Palestinians, etc. etc. have far less to do with any of these matters than with seizing ever more power for itself.

Intersectionality

We note that the language, the attitudes, by which the ruling class have hyped COVID’s health challenge have been integrated into the identities of its constituency’s manifold components so as to add force to the longstanding demands of each. How readily—how naturally—activists for Black Lives Matter, Feminism, Global Warming, etc. have adopted support of all manner of socioeconomic restrictions on the pretend-basis of saving lives from the COVID as if it were their own cause, is yet another practical manifestation of the latter-day Left’s theory of “intersectionality.” As the activists of Black Lives Matter burn down buildings, they also wear masks supposedly to show their commitment to social responsibility for public health. Nor incidentally, they also tout their commitment to LGBTQ sexuality, for abortion, and against the nuclear family. The same may be noted about every component’s support of every other.

By the same token, every one of the ruling class’s constituencies, the disparity of their foci notwithstanding, has adopted as its own the demand that voting in American elections must henceforth be “from home,” with ballots collected or “harvested” by third parties. That would shift electoral power from those who vote to those who process and count the votes—i.e. to themselves. Hence it would set the entire ruling class free from the voters.

Each sub-constituency translates the accusation into its own idiom. In America, accusations of racism are the lowest (alas the most common) form of political pandering and intimidation. Securing over 90% of the black vote being the sine qua non of the Democrat Party’s electoral successes, no one was surprised when the New York Times, followed by the rest of the major media, noted that, the COVID-19 having struck African Americans proportionately harder than other races, proves American society treats them despicably and must submit to reform.

Yet at the Times, CNN, etc. they know that this is a lie and that, regardless of race, adverse outcomes of COVID-19 infections go along with obesity, type 2 diabetes, etc. And they know as well as anyone precisely to what extent African Americans exhibit these very conditions proportionately more than other races, and that these conditions have more to do with calories today than with slavery two centuries ago.

The COVID event has also made the face mask into a physical badge of tribal identity, common to all the sub-constituencies. Wearing the mask is now about publicly distinguishing the virtuous and deploring the deplorables. North Carolina’s Democrat Governor Roy Cooper said that “A face covering signifies strength and compassion for others” and “wearing one shows that you care about other people’s health.” On the same day, New York’s Andrew Cuomo put it this way: “Wearing a mask is now cool, I believe it’s cool…. Wearing a mask is officially cool.”

Anthony Fauci, who in March had told60 minutes “there’s no reason to be walking around with a mask,” in May gave his scientific judgment that masks are “a symbol for people to see that that’s the kind of thing you should be doing,” while admitting that they are “not 100% effective.” He could hardly have done otherwise since the New England Journal of Medicine had said: “wearing a mask outside health care facilities offers [the wearer] little, if any, protection from infection,” and is irrelevant to others in casual contact. Such a symbol of intersectional identity has it become that, as rioters were burning Minneapolis, its Democrat mayor urged the rioters whom he let burn parts of his city to make sure they wore masks while doing so.

In sum, the lockdowns have been perpetuated and prolonged by people who care more about your compliance than your health.

Regime of Fear

They are about increasing the Democratic Party’s chances in the 2020 election.

The 2016 U.S. election confronted the U.S. ruling class with the possibility that the presidency’s enormous powers might be used to dismantle its network of prestige and privileges. The public is just beginning to understand the extent to which all manner of bureaucrats and allies used their powers to try defeating the challenge of 2016, and then instituted the socio-political equivalent of basketball’s “full court press,” treating anything and everything about the Trump administration as illegitimate, running official investigations not to gather information but as pretexts for feeding slander to their media associates. They tried to catch Trump in perjury traps. They toyed with the idea of leading him into statements that might be construed as bases for removal from office. But the U.S. economy boomed. Trump’s ratings rose. As 2020 dawned and Trump seemed a cinch for re-election, the Democratic Party et al. were grasping at straws for ways of getting at him.

By the time COVID came over the horizon, thought of using it had already crossed ruling class’s minds. No conspiracy was necessary or possible. The existing party sentiment and like-mindedness were enough to produce the unanimity and uniformity with which the ruling class has used the COVID-19 event to produce, stoke, and maintain fear, to energize its constituencies’ agendas in pursuit its power.

In January 2017 Dr. Anthony Fauci, speaking at Georgetown University, said he had no doubt that the Trump administration would face a “surprise outbreak” of “infectious diseases.” A few days earlier, The Atlanticpublished an article titled “How a Pandemic Might Play Out Under Trump,” which wished out loud that Trump’s handling of such an event would undermine his presidency. Yet earlier, NYU professor Arthur Caplan had published an article along the same lines: “The End of Civilization and the Real Donald Trump.” In short, weaponizing a public health event had crossed eager minds.

The prospect of locking down the country, ostensibly to save it from COVID-19, offered a near monopoly of communications. Trump’s rallies were shut down. Above all, churches were shut down, as well as the countless meetings of clubs, businesses, friends, etc. that are the lifeblood of what one might call the country class. Nor may people congregate as they wish for political purposes: the strictures that North Carolina’s Democrat governor put on the Republican National Convention made it impossible to hold it in that state.

Without face-to-face contact, television became the chief means by which communication took place—but it was one-way communication, whose programming and corporate advertising—immediately—began telling the people the joys of obedience: “we are all in this together,” “ Alone, together.”

It reeks of Orwell. The companies whose advertising pays for this are household names: Adidas, Amazon, Airbnb, American Express, Bank of America, BMW, Burger King, Citigroup, Coca Cola, DHL, Disney, eBay, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, IBM, Mastercard, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Netflix, Nike, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Sony, Starbucks, Twitter, Verizon, Walmart, Warner Brothers and YouTube. The ruling class.

Driven by the politics of partisan identity, the ruling class used the COVID-19 event to collapse American life.

A glance is enough to reveal the perverse enormity of what it caused.

Because the lockdowns closed most restaurants and hotels, where about half of the nation’s calories were consumed, demand for food shifted in ways that made it impossible for distribution networks and processing plants to adjust seamlessly—especially as the government limited their operation and paid workers to call in sick. Millions of gallons of milk have been poured down drains, millions of chickens, billions of eggs and tens of thousands of hogs and cattle have been destroyed, acres of vegetables and tons of fruit disked under. Vineyards have been ripped out. This scrambled allocation and waste of food resulted in shortages. Prices in the markets rose. In some places, meat and eggs were rationed. Persons deprived of work have less money with which to pay these prices, and struggle to feed their families. This reduced countless self-supporting citizens to supplicants at food banks.

Who could produce surplus and scarcity simultaneously except sorcerers’ apprentices wielding government power? That’s expertise for you. By intentionally reducing the supply of food available to the population, the U.S. government joined the rare ranks of such as Stalin’s Soviet Union and Castro’s Cuba.

But no sane person had ever imagined the near-shutdown of a whole nation’s entire medical care except for one disease. The U.S. government did that, on the advice of its very best experts. Between mid-March to July hospitals stood nearly empty, having cleared the decks for the (ignorantly) expected COVID flood. Patients having been discouraged or forbidden to come in for other reasons, doctors and nurses were idled. Not a few were furloughed. Emergency rooms were closed to most of their customers—the poorer people who routinely get routine care there. Private clinics and practices—where most Americans get most medical care—practically shut down. Many will never reopen. Forget about dentistry. This has meant that most Americans have been left essentially without medical care for about a third of a year.

Tests missed, conditions not diagnosed, treatments forgone or delayed. Human bodies’ troubles not having taken a corresponding holiday, it is impossible to estimate how much suffering and death this lack of medical care has caused and will yet cause—all while the U.S. government was making it happen. Officials who claim to be smarter than we ordered it—for our own good, they claim.

More than forty million Americans have filed claims for unemployment assistance since the shutdowns began. To this number one must add the as-yet unknown tens of millions owners of small businesses which were forced to close or radically to reduce activity. Add to that the uncountable millions not directly affected—farmers, professionals—whose products and activities the shutdowns de-valued. Imagine the millions of careers wrecked, the shattering of dreams that had been realized by lifetimes of work, and you search for words to describe it: Catastrophe? Tragedy? Man-made, for sure.

The experts who made this happen stigmatized, tried to silence, and effectively criminalized dissent as dangerous to health and, of course, as racist. But there is zero evidence that all or any of the above measures increased anybody’s life expectancy, and plenty to the contrary. They wronged America. But why? and cui bono?

Power

All of the above served the ruling class’s overarching interest in its own power. Are there any categories of people who benefited from the shutdowns? Government gained. We know of no employee of federal, state or local government who was furloughed or had his or her pay reduced. On the contrary, all got additional power. The federal government created trillions of dollars, the distribution of which is enriching the usual suspects involved in administration. The teachers’ unions gained the power to extort concessions as a price for reopening schools. Among them, restrictions on or elimination of charter schools.

And as independent businesses were throttled, big ones grew. The biggest, Amazon, was the biggest winner. The news media, unrestricted and at the service of the powerful, themselves exercised unprecedented power. The social media platforms seconded the coup by censoring dissent from the “line” of their own most aggressive bureaucrats and officials. Try getting figures for COVID deaths and how they are counted from Google. YouTube deleted a video gone viral of two medical doctors who pointed out the truth about the COVID-19’s true lethality as dangerous disinformation, and Twitter appended a note to President Trump’s objection to voting by mail for facilitating fraud, accusing it of falsehood.

Prohibitions such as of playing in the park or swimming in the sea are mere devices to train the public to accept unlimited bureaucratic discretion. You may congregate at Costco, but not at church. Failure to obey regulations will land ordinary citizens in jail, while the jails release robbers and child molesters. You may not exceed limits on occupancy or fail to wear a mask. You may not even sing in church. But if you and friends loot and burn the neighborhood store, the police will just stand by. Yet all Democrat governors celebrated and some joined masses of “protests”—forget about masks and social distancing. They did this not for anybody’s health but to to secure another few percentage points of the black vote for their party and to leverage their seizure of power over police forces.

We are supposed to believe that all this is dictated by “Science.” In June, 1,200 “health experts” signed a letter approving the BLM protests because, it said, “white supremacy is a lethal public health issue.” But it cautioned that “this should not be confused with a permissive stance on…protests against stay-home orders.” In short, Coronavirus restrictions, like the rest of political correctness’s commandments, are pure political weaponry—nothing short of an inversion of the American people’s priorities, accomplished by nobody’s vote. Ruling class presumption. In short, we are living through a coup d’état.

Declaring emergencies to excuse taking “full powers” is the oldest of ploys. Does anybody remember the Reichstag fire? The prospect of similar things happening in America had been rising along with the ruling class and the administrative state. The authorities’ seizure of arbitrary power in the name of expertise is the deadliest strike at our way of life. Suspending law and rights, issuing arbitrary rules of behavior, has been mostly the doing of Democrat-controlled state and local government. But the lead came from the Democrat-controlled Federal bureaucracy, empowered by a president elected as a Republican, and with the silent complaisance of perhaps a majority of Republican politicians.

The ruling class’s gains of power and money have been at the country class’s expense, and have depended on suppressing truth.

An egregious example of forcible official lying is the ruling class’s political campaign against the drug Hydroxychloroquine. President Trump had pointed to the truth that this standard treatment for malaria for more than a half century is effective against the early and mid-stages of the COVID disease. This fact had been discovered accidentally and confirmed by studies and practices in France, Spain, India, and South Korea. In April, U.S. doctors started prescribing it widely, reported good results, and took it themselves prophylactically. The ruling class found this intolerable because it contradicted its narrative that nothing could prevent the sky from falling, but above all because its success might cast a favorable light on Trump. Hence it set about canceling truth about drugs from public consciousness and substituting its own narrative.

The ruling class machine began by labeling reports of the drug’s success as “anecdotal.” Then, the Veterans Administration gave the drug in small doses to some 380 elderly patients dying with/of the COVID. Every major media outlet touted their deaths as proof of its ineffectiveness and danger. On May 22, the Lancet, arguably the most authoritative medical journal, published what it called an analysis of the world’s biggest medical data base showing, definitively it claimed, that Hydroxychloroquine is ineffective, counterproductive, and dangerous. The Yale School of Medicine officially concluded that the drug is bad stuff, despite a study to the contrary by its own professor of epidemiology, Harvey Risch. The great Anthony Fauci who, when pressed hard, had said that he would take the drug were he to be sick of the COVID, then backed the political narrative by quipping that, as of now there is no treatment for COVID illness. The U.S. food and Drug Administration stopped clinical trials, pharmacy boards refused orders from physicians and retailers, and hospitals around the country required their physicians to stop treating their patients with it.

It turns out, however, that the Lancet study’s database was part of a fly-by-night, strictly political operation, and that its details are literally incredible—e.g., the number of reported Hydroxy deaths for one Australian hospital exceeded the number of total deaths for the entire country. In short, the report was another professionally unsustainable hit job. The New York Timesreported that “More than 100 scientists and clinicians have questioned the authenticity” of the database as well as the study’s integrity. The Lancet withdrew it in shame.

But it was too late. Fauci and the medical establishment did not apologize. For the media and for headline-readers, the case was closed. The lie stood. Then, on July 1, Michigan’s Henry Ford health system published a peer-reviewed study that shows Hydroxychloroquine significantly cut death rates even in mid-to-late COVID cases. Again, the ruling class machine ignored the truth. Again: all mainstream news about the COVID affair is related to health only incidentally. Be very afraid.

Nor has the COVID affair to do with any emergency—except possibly the 2020 election. Democrat politicians and the stream of public service TV advertising have left no doubt that the ruling class’s objective is to establish “a new normal” by extending into the indefinite future the powers by which bureaucracies have eclipsed America’s laws and way of life.

But, as the Authorities toyed too openly with the truth, they impeached themselves and lost authority. Fewer and fewer believe what they hear from on high. As Russians under Communism learned, the truth is usually the opposite. Whenever the government reported bountiful harvests, they stocked up on potatoes.

Default, and Consequences

Fairness requires noting that, regardless of whatever America’s ruling Left has done, whatever its hopes, plans, or coordination, what actually happened to the United States of America consequent to COVID could not have happened had President Donald Trump, much of the Republican Party, and America’s religious establishment not concurred in its happening.

This is another way of saying that the ruling class rules by size and seduction, as well as by intimidation. It did not rush into imposing the shutdowns, or even into making too big a deal of COVID. Its parts and personages did not fully commit themselves until after they had convinced president Trump to give them the preclusion of opposition without which inflicting so much pain on so many would have exposed them to official and popular retribution.

President Donald Trump, having cut travel from China on January 31 and from Europe on March 12 had maintained his grip on public opinion while pointing to the evidence that that COVID is not catastrophic. He sustained accusations of xenophobia. But, as the virus took root in America, the opposition shifted to blaming him for doing nothing in the face of a plague. Countering that would have required standing on the truth, attacking the central falsehood that the COVID is a plague, and its purveyors as liars. Since the experts had been wrong again and again, this was doable.

But on March 15, Trump asked the country to shut down for fifteen days to slow the spread of the disease—to flatten the curve. Then, on March 31 the New York Times crowed victoriously that the previous week, President Trump had been stampeded to abandon his goal of restoring normal life by Easter: “The numbers the health officials showed President Trump were overwhelming. With the peak of the coronavirus pandemic still weeks away, he was told, hundreds of thousands of Americans could face death if the country reopened too soon.” Also, poll questions that framed the choice just so had helped produce another set of numbers. Said the Times: he was told that “voters overwhelmingly preferred to keep containment measures in place over sending people back to work prematurely.” Trump let himself be scared into sheltering politically under what he supposed would be the protective professional wings of Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC.

Trump believed that Fauci would cooperate in a plan for reopening, and counted on the Democratic Party sharing credit for providing near a trillion dollars in relief to the people who the lockdowns were depriving of livelihood.

But, once Trump let go of the truth, he ceded control and entered a political blind alley. Trump was giving the de facto alliance between the Democratic Party, Fauci et al., the press, and a host of profiteers public credit even as they discredited him in every way possible. They had him where they wanted him. As the lockdowns throttled America, they used the political leverage to raise demands. They aimed at his political demise as well as at economic, social, and political transformation.

The guidelines for “Opening Up America Again” that Trump unveiled on April 17 resulted from that imbalance of political credit and leverage. Far from returning the country to what it had been, the “<data-driven” process=”” they=”” outlined,=”” written=”” by=”” fauci’s=”” cdc,=”” would=”” make=”” sure=”” that=”” state=”” and=”” local=”” officials=”” so=”” inclined=”” now=”” have=”” top-level,=”” pseudo-legal=”” cover=”” for=”” keeping=”” or=”” reimposing=”” whatever=”” arbitrary=”” restrictions=”” on=”” opponents=”” think=”” can=”” get=”” away=”” with,=”” with=”” data=”” manipulate=”” to=”” purpose.<=”” p=””>

The Guidelines “advise” (that means “mandate” for officials who so choose) opening only to a percentage of capacity, and with restrictions—e.g. no singing in church,—that counter their reason for being. But churches and small business cannot survive at less than at full capacity. Schools set up other than for maximum concentration on the stuff to be learned are counterproductive. In short, the guidelines give federal sanction to choking America’s “main street” sector.

The guidelines’ arguably most dangerous legacy may be their recommendation/requirement that governments certify persons’ safe status for work and public interaction by tracking and isolating persons infected with the virus—or said to be. This involves hiring hundreds of thousands of persons to enforce compliance with decreed regulations on personal behavior—effectively a “lifestyle police,” empowered at the very least to declare anyone the equivalent of “medically untouchable.”

The governors of Michigan and California (there is no dissent among Democratic Party officials) have already defined “racism” as a major health hazard. Is there any doubt that these police will be less concerned with health as ordinary people understand it than with enforcing their chiefs’ will on political opponents? Thus, without law or trial, anyone could be separated peremptorily from job, business, or family, pending redress in the courts—which most people cannot afford.

Were this practice adopted nationally, it really would be the centerpiece of a “new normal.” By May, New York’s mayor had already deputized hundreds of (arguably former) gang members and criminals, paying them to circulate among the general population to “encourage”—dare we say, intimidate?—citizens to follow the Mayor’s orders. He also offered rewards for reports on neighbors’ violations of those orders. This is the beginning of explicitly partisan policing more as in China than in the America in which we grew up. Not incidentally the World health Organization—an extension of China’s government, formally recommended that nations “observe active surveillance and tracing of their populations.” Presumably, when the next virus comes along, the ruling class’ arbitrary powers will ratchet up yet another notch.

Sadly Anthony Fauci, whose reputation could not withstand any sort of scrutiny, retains the capacity to mislead because no one with a major national audience has publicly scrutinized it.

All of this, one must keep in mind, is so because President Trump’s complaisance with the ruling class’s falsehoods about the virus precluded high-level affirmation of the truths that negate the COVID Coup lies and pretenses. That he gave that complaisance contre coeur is beside the point. When pressed, Trump stuck by the falsehoods, as he did on April 22, after Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, who had opposed the lockdowns, announced that he was lifting them in his state. Trump chastised him publicly in the strongest terms, prompting the media into an orgy of accusations that Kemp was turning Georgia into a death camp. As it happened, Georgia got healthy. But that did not matter.

The biggest and most significant default however, has been that of America’s Christian churches—all of them—from their hierarchs to their priests, pastors, and ministers. Their complaisance with the lockdowns set aside a truth far more important to human dignity than anything having to do with any physical ailment—the one truth that puts all human power in proper perspective, the truth on which our civilization itself rests: that no human power can manufacture true and false, right and wrong, any more than we can make ourselves, and that, therefore, we are obliged to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s.”

Jewish congregations have been similarly craven.

The churches’ agreement to suspend public worship and the distribution of sacraments also contradicted their duty. Until 2020, Christian clergy felt obliged not just to offer public worship to whomever, but also to search out the sick, to offer sacraments to the dying, especially in places where victims of plagues lay between life and death—regardless of consequences. Because surrendering to secular dictates concerning how congregants should behave, even in church cannot be justified in Christian terms it would not have crossed previous generations of churchmen’s minds.

Had this generation of church leaders simply practiced their faith, even by merely keeping silent about the ruling class’s claims about the COVID-19 rather than ignorantly, submissively endorsing them, they would have preserved their intellectual and moral credit to help the general population to deal with the growing realization that they had been duped. Instead, they chose to be complicit with tinpot Caesars. Hence, as Americans face the bitter fact that we have been hurt worse than for nought, the churches have largely disqualified themselves as arbiters of truth.

Truth and clarity about what history will record as the 2020 COVID coup is the necessary condition for the American people to overcome its effects. Overcoming those effects must begin with discrediting those pretenses and the reputations of those who made them.

Who Will Lead Us?

Uncompromised leadership is in short supply because few prominent persons have resisted ruling-class pressure to join its COVID narrative. But so anxious are Americans for truth about what happened, what is happening; so substantively thin are the lies on which the scam has been based, and so abundant are the resources for establishing the truth; so hungry are Americans for examples of successes in countering the scam, that a few courageous leaders in key places may suffice.

The following outlines how the U.S. Senate can function as a truth commission concerning the COVID coup’s several aspects, and how state governors so inclined can provide practical leadership to motivate, guide, and legitimize life independent of our dysfunctional ruling class.

With regard to the latter, we note that the manner in which states and localities run by Democrats have managed the COVID event differs from that of places otherwise governed as if they were from regimes, countries, even civilizations, alien to one another. This is yet more evidence that American society has largely broken into incompatible pieces, and that avoidance of civil war may hinge on mutual tolerance of parting ways. More on that below.

Truth Commission

In the past, as the misbehavior of important persons confused and divided Americans, wise senators summoned to public hearings those involved in the controversies, put them under oath and hence possible penalty for perjury, and established the often-uncomfortable truth on which the country came together. In 1948 Senator Richard Nixon’s (R-CA) hearings showed beyond doubt how deeply Soviet intelligence had penetrated our government. Between 1951 and 1957, Senator Estes Kefauver (D-TN) exposed and hence dismantled the mafia’s control of the U.S. labor movement. In 1974 Senator Sam Ervin’s (D-NC) hearings left no doubt about President Nixon’s role in the Watergate coverup. Today, the COVID scam being based on lies and misrepresentations by countless important persons, rigorous public testimony under oath can expose them and those who spread them.

Because of jurisdictions and/or of particularly able chairmen, the Senate’s Committee on Homeland Security and Oversight, on Health, Education and Labor, on Finance, and on the Judiciary, each can shine their particular lights on specific aspects of the problem.

Senator Ron Johnson’s (R-WI) Committee on Government Affairs, with oversight over the Centers For Disease Control, can set the record straight about how its relationship with China’s laboratories, with the World Health Organization and with the Chinese government itself has shaped how the U.S. government has dealt COVID. The CDC having grasped enormous powers over American life, the Committee can inquire about the level of expertise it has brought to its task. What, if anything, justifies its claim to scientific management? The Committee can also audit how the CDC’s expenditure of funds and efforts among a variety of political, non-health topics affected its readiness to deal with the recurrence of viruses from exotic places.

Its subcommittee on Oversight and Emergency Management, under Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), himself a physician, is well placed to expose who knew what about the COVID-19 virus, when they knew it, who told the public what, and on what basis. The public has noted with dismay the discrepancy and contradictions about COVID-19 from supposedly medical experts, most prominently by Dr. Anthony Fauci.

At different times, these experts told us that the virus posed very little danger, and that it was a mortal threat to us all, that masks were useless, and then essential. On the basis of their many statements, hundreds of millions of American lives were wrecked, and millions continue to languish under “guidelines” that make no sense on their face. Expert questioning under oath in front of the cameras can let the American people judge for themselves what sense they make. The experts will have to reveal what medical expertise might have led them to stigmatize young people relatively unaffected by the COVID for going to the beach while not objecting as greater numbers of higher-risk black Americans rioted in the streets.

The jurisdiction of Senator Charles Grassley’s Finance Committee (R-IA) includes unemployment compensation, social services, and Medicare/Medicaid. The COVID event having caused some forty million persons to file for unemployment, having placed unusual burdens on all manner of government services, and having roiled food markets in ways harmful to health as well as suggestive of possible price fixing, this Committee is well placed to unravel the causal threads between the strictures that governments have placed on the population and the troubles that ensued. Grassley, one of the Senate’s better investigators, can showcase categories and individuals hurt by the lockdowns and call governors to square the harm they caused with the benefits they claim they achieved. Who lost my job? Who destroyed my business? where do I go to rebuild what I lost? These are some of the questions that the committee can put to officials on the American people’s behalf. Grassley and ranking Democrat Ron Wyden (D-OR) can also bring to bear their staff’s expertise regarding nursing homes to probe how government policy brought about the holocaust that the COVID-19 wrought in them.

Parents all over America wonder about the basis on which the 2019-20 school year was cut in half and the bases on which the 20-21 year was compromised. Senator Rand Paul’s Subcommittee on Children and Families can put such questions authoritatively to the officials who made that call, confront the projected risks with reality, and weigh them against the results of lost education and social disruption.

Americans ask by what right governors and mayors essentially put people under house arrest without due process, and had them arrested for such activities as playing in the park or paddling in the sea; by what right they shut down religious services, etc. What else may government do in violation of the Bill of Rights? Under the U.S. Constitution, what limits are there on a citizen’s obligations and rights? These are some of the questions with which Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) can confront federal, state, and local officials summoned before Senate Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution. Cruz would also summon officials of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and ask why they have not treated state and local officials’ denial of the free exercise of religion and of freedom of assembly as violations of the First Amendment. What is their understanding of civil rights?

The American people have an interest in knowing how the mentality of current officials is changing the practical meaning of the Constitution’s words. Cruz might well ask, government officials having changed the meaning of the basic bargain between people and government, what remains of the people’s obligation to obey the government?

Exemplary Leadership

Publicly contrasting the thoughts, deeds, and consequences of the officials and professionals who made the COVID event such a tragedy with those of the officials and professionals who led in opposite directions would not be the least of the beneficent results from serious hearings. Most Americans don’t know, but should, that several U.S. States never did shut down, while others reduced activities far less than the likes of California and New York. Like Sweden’s government, these states’ officials never saw reason to believe that the COVID was the plague and believed that individual persons’ exercise of responsibility for themselves is the surest guarantee of safety for all.

But the differences in what happened in California and Florida, in New Jersey and South Dakota do not speak for themselves. That is why the public would benefit by seeing these states’ governors defending their widely different perspectives on the COVID, and their results.

Perspective

It should be clear that the COVID event in America is only tangentially about health. It is essentially a political campaign based on the pretense of health. Mere perusal of news from abroad is enough to see that this is true as well throughout the Western world. Throughout, the campaign by governments and associated elites has essentially smothered social and economic activity. Not least—and by no means incidentally—it has smothered the overt political opposition which had increasingly beleaguered said governments and elites throughout the Western world.

Through the previous decade, the various failures and inadequacies of these governments and elites, of “Davos Man,” had become the prime subject of public discourse. At the very least, the COVID campaign changed the subject to physical safety and economic survival. Davos Man tightened control by using the state’s coercive power more forcefully than in wartime, covering its class by claiming to speak for “science” in a manner that precludes counterargument.

In America as elsewhere, there was no doubt about which sectors of society were on what side, who were the campaign’s protagonists, winners, and losers. The governments, their bureaucracies, the major legacy political parties, the celebrities and the media, Davos Man, were on one side. On the other were middle class people and their “populist” representatives. As the northern hemisphere’s summertime was banishing the latest respiratory virus, Davos Man strove to make as many restrictions as possible part of a “new normal.”

In Europe as in America, the COVID affair was but the latest round in which the very same protagonists had faced off. There as here, the language and attitudes with which Davos Man denigrated its supposed inferiors in the COVID affair fit seamlessly into previous patterns of the larger, long-term struggle. Had there been any doubt that the COVID-19 virus was more an occasion than a cause, it vanished at the end of May as, on both sides of the Atlantic, Davos Man switched to berating ordinary people and their civilization and ginned up yet another campaign to beat back challenges to its power.

Angelo Codevilla

Senior Fellow of the Claremont Institute and professor emeritus of International Relations at Boston University.

(Source: americanmind.org)

 

Catholicism and Economics. By Christopher Henry Dawson

Never in the world’s history have economic problems played such a large part in human life or had such a direct influence on human thought as at present. Economics have come to overshadow politics, to absorb into their sphere the entire social question. Even the man in the street has learnt that his personal welfare is intimately bound up with an economic system. He may be indifferent towards politics, skeptical of the value of philosophy and science, hostile towards religion, but in economic matters his interest and prejudices are keen. Hence the rise of Socialism—the success of an economic gospel and an economic interpretation of life. Hence, too a new spirit of criticism towards religion, which is felt to be indifferent towards the things which are so vitally important—it is “the opium of the poor” which drugs them into contentment with their lot, and indifference towards their true interests.

This excessive preoccupation with economic problems is, however, abnormal and temporary. A healthy society is no more troubled about its economic organisation than a healthy man is troubled about his digestion. The present unrest is a symptom of disease, as well as a symptom of necessary change. Modern society is traversing that critical period of its existence, which the Ancient World also went through during the century that preceded the Augustan Peace. In both cases the material resources of society have outstripped its moral control. It is the crucial moment in the life of a civilisation—a time when societies and individuals are beset by temptations to violent remedies and excessive hopes, alternating with apathy and despair. When the crisis is over, when society has either mastered its difficulties or accepted a compromise with them, human life again becomes normal; economic problems sink back into their proper perspective, and man’s spiritual needs once more reassert themselves. After the Peace of Augustus comes the Gospel of Christ.

And so it is with our own problems. The present economic unrest is a side issue—though a side issue of vast importance—which distracts men’s minds from the ultimate problems of life; it is this, not religion, which is the true “opium of the poor”. Only when the present economic question is settled, will the real opportunity of Catholicism come. The economic settlement affords the material preparation for the religious settlement, that is to say for the conversion of our civilisation.

Yet we are far from wishing to assert that Economics belong to a region apart from Religion. Religion, to be worthy of the name, must claim to be the inspiration of every side of human life, and the economic life, however exaggerated are the claims the Socialists make for it, is certainly one of the fundamental forces that have moulded the development of human society. Among primitive peoples the connection between religion and economics is clear enough. That by which man lives is holy: there is a mystery in all the processes by which the earth is brought to bear fruit for the support of man, and the one great end of sacrifice and spell and purification is to cooperate with the forces of nature in producing good harvests, numerous flocks and favourable seasons

In the case of Christianity, however, this is much less obvious. At first sight it would seem impossible to conceive of a religion more hostile to the economic view of life. It stands at the opposite pole to the Nature Religion, for it is essentially “other-worldly” and bases its teaching on a new scale of values in which the old economic and natural values disappear, or are reversed. Nevertheless, it will be seen that Christianity eventually reconquers the economic life for itself, by bringing that also into relation with spiritual values.

The Christian attitude towards wealth and the use of material goods is expressed in the two great evangelical ideals of Poverty and Charity. These are intimately connected with one another, for they are respectively the negative and positive aspects of the teaching of Jesus concerning the Kingdom of God. The present world and the natural order are but the preparation for the world to come—the spiritual and supernatural order. This alone is worthy of man’s efforts, and the goods of the present world are only of value if they are used for spiritual ends. If they are treated as ends in themselves, they become evil.

“Be not solicitous, therefore, saying: What shall we eat: or what shall we drink: or wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek. For your Father knoweth that you have need of all these things. Seek ye therefore the Kingdom of God, and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you.” “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things that he possesses,” but in his “riches towards God.” A superfluity of material wealth is really an obstacle to the attainment of the true end of life. Therefore, our Lord counsels his followers to strip themselves of the unnecessary like an athlete before the race, or rather like a man in a sinking ship, who has more chance of safety the less he has on him. “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the Kingdom of God.” Leave worldly cares to worldly men—the dead to the dead. “Sell what you possess and give alms. Make for yourself bags that grow not old: a treasure in heaven that faileth not.”

All this insistence on the perils of wealth and the blessedness of poverty does not rest, as so many modern writers think, on a desire for social justice. Justice, as we shall see, has a very important place in Catholic doctrine, but it is not the foundation of the evangelical teaching about poverty. That is simply a consistent development of the new spiritual and otherworldly valuation of life, which was the work of Jesus, and as such it has inspired the attitude of the Catholic Church ever since, and has been the principle of the ascetic life and of the monastic institution. Alike to St. Antony in the third century, and to St. Francis in the thirteenth, the words of our Lord, “If thou wilt be perfect, sell all that thou hast, and give to the poor and come and follow me,” came as a personal command, and the life of St. Francis, so vital and yet so utterly independent of all that external goods can do to make life livable, is a standing example of the way in which the Christian spirit transcends all economic categories and laws. Nor is the realisation of this ideal limited to Oriental or mediaeval society, in which a money economy hardly exists. During the very years when Adam Smith was working out his economic system, Benedict Joseph Labre, his junior by twenty-five years, as a wanderer and a beggar on the highways of Europe, was disproving by his life the fundamental postulates of the new science.

This ideal of Holy Poverty and of the blessedness of the non-economic life is the negative side of the Gospel teaching. The same view of life finds its positive expression in the precept of Charity, which is the true inspiration of the Christian life in economics as well as in other matters. All that a man has, whether of external goods or of personal powers and opportunities, is given him not for his own enjoyment, but for the service of God and man. The man who uses his powers and his wealth for his own gratification is like the faithless slave in the parable who swills his master’s wine and misuses the fellow-servants whose welfare has been entrusted to him. On the other hand, though wealth sought as an end in itself is an obstacle to the Kingdom of God, it is not without its value, if it is used as a vehicle of spiritual love. To feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to care for the sick and the prisoner is as it were a personal service to the Son of Man Himself.

This is to “make friends of the Mammon of Iniquity”—to convert material, indifferent things into spiritual goods—”riches towards God.” It is not that the Gospel treats the alleviating of economic distress as an end in itself, it is again, as in the teaching on voluntary poverty, a question of the spiritual revaluation of life.

Charity was to be the controlling force in the brotherhood of the Kingdom of God, and if this spiritual force was real, it must show itself in all things from the highest to the lowest.

“Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” To the average man the economic life is the one side of life that really matters, and a religion that leaves this unaffected, as did English Evangelical Pietism a century ago, thereby shows itself to be unreal. Consequently, the duty of almsgiving, the realisation in the economic sphere of the Christian fraternity, was the chief external activity of the early Church, and it was carried out on a scale that is difficult to realise in the present age, amounting, as it often did, to a real redistribution of property.

Yet in the charity of the early Church, from the “communism” of the first believers at Jerusalem onwards, there was no attempt to secure an improvement of economic conditions as such. There was simply an indifference to wealth and to external conditions generally, and a determination to conform the daily life of the faithful to the new laws of the spiritual world that had been revealed.

If the Christian had passed from death to life, from darkness to light, it was because he had received the Life of God, and that life was Love. It was impossible to possess that Life and not to love the brethren, and it was equally impossible to love the brethren without showing it in external things. As Christ has laid down His life for us, so we ought to lay down our life for the brethren, says St. John, and he goes on: “He that has the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need and shall shut up his bowels from him; how doth the Charity of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word nor in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” This is the spirit of Catholic charity as opposed alike to external almsgiving and to modern social reform, which is a matter of results. It is the outward manifestation of a living, personal force of love—the spirit of St. Peter Claver or St. Vincent de Paul, rather than that of the Charity Organisation Society or of the Fabian Society.

But if these two great principles—indifference to external goods and brotherly love, are the foundations of the Catholic attitude towards economics, they are nevertheless not all-sufficing. Taken by themselves they would suggest the complete segregation of Christians from the ordinary life of society, and they find their most complete realisation in the religious life—the state of perfection. If this state is held up, not as an ideal counsel, but as a law binding upon all Christians, we are led towards a social teaching which is not that of the Church, but that of the anarchic and ‘spiritual’ sects which have always existed from the second century to the present day. All these, whether they look forward to a millennial Kingdom of the Saints as did the Montanists, the Anabaptists and the Fifth Monarchy Men, or whether they preach the perfect life like the Apostolics, the Fraticelli, the Catharists, or, in our own age, the followers of Tolstoy, agree in condemning the state, secular business and secular civilisation as radically and irremediably bad, and it is natural for them to condemn the institution of property, like marriage and civil authority, as an infringement of the spirit of their gospel.

But Catholicism cannot acquiesce in any such division of life, for it teaches an integration of the whole of life, so far as life is not dominated by perverse instincts of will. The God who redeems man is the same God who created him, and with him all exterior nature. It is the function of man to be the head of the material order, and to spiritualise inferior things by using them for God. Though the natural and the supernatural are two distinct orders, to which in a sense the secular and the religious lives correspond, yet both are directed to the same ultimate end. Thus economic life, though it is essentially a co-operation for the provision of material goods, is for the Christian a co-operation governed and inspired by love.

Christopher Henry Dawson

www.crisismagazine.com

Originally published in New Blackfriars, May 1924. 

Separation of School and State. By Charles A. Coulombe.

We are living in a strange time, to be sure—a strange amalgam of the last short years of the antebellum South and Weimar Germany. If we were selling it to a studio as a film idea, we would have to say it’s the first half-hour or so of Gone with the Wind meets Cabaret. Amid the chaos caused by pandemic and civil unrest, numerous institutions in both Church and state have been tried and found severely wanting. What the incredible historical stupidity, exemplified not only by Black Lives Matter and Antifa but the mainstream organizations that are endorsing them, shows is that ignorance—willful and otherwise—is running amok. This should come as no surprise, although the transition of so many college-age children in only a few months from Eloi-like denizens of “safe spaces” to statue-tipping thugs is nothing short of breathtaking.

For these over-age tots, much of the sawdust that fills their heads is understandable, given the way in which history, literature, and civics are mistaught at the college level. Crypto-(and not-so-crypto-)Marxist doctrines are melded together with narratives of pure persecution regarding racial, gender, and mental minorities. From that point, the graduates of the more prestigious institutions enter into the educational establishment, where they spread their drivel. One thinks of the curriculum for ethnic studies proposed by the State of California’s Department of Education for public schools, and quoted in the August 18, 2019 issue of the Pasadena Star-News:

According to the draft curriculum, the “guiding values and principles” of each lesson in ethnic studies will “cultivate empathy,” share stories of “struggle and resistance” and “critique empire and its relationship to white supremacy, racism, patriarchy, cisheteropatriarchy, capitalism, ableism, anthropocentrism, and other forms of power and oppression at the intersections of our society.”

Clearly we have come a long way from the kinder, gentler days of Jesse Jackson and his supporters chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho, Western culture’s gotta go.”

Indeed, the clinical-sounding faux-neutrality of this pallid prose is guaranteed to nauseate the lover of English or any other real language. Replete with such buzz phrases as “structures of power”—as though the universities with their grade-wielding instructors were not precisely what they condemn—they spend their time indoctrinating students with the evils of everything that is not their own precious selves.

Take, for example, this delicious selection from SUNY and CUNY’s Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies, “Unit I: An Introduction to Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies: Grounding Theoretical Frameworks and Concepts,” under “Conceptualizing Structures of Power”:

For instance, in the founding of the United States the institutions of social life, including work, law, education, and the like, were built to benefit wealthy, white men since at the time these were, by law, the only real “citizens” of the country. Although these institutions have significantly changed over time in response to social movements and more progressive cultural shifts, their sexist, genderist, racist, classist, and ableist structures continue to persist in different forms today.

Is it any wonder that the dear little ones emerge from their cocoons of learning ready to wreak havoc against all such symbols of oppression?

And what, really, does this sort of drivel prepare them for in terms of real life? What can the proud holder of a degree in gender studies or allied arcana do with it?

Imagine, if you will, a degree-mill like Harvard or Yale issuing sheepskins in Barsoomian Studies. After four to eight years of hard learning, the freshly minted graduate shall know all of the distinctions—cultural, biological, or otherwise—between the white, yellow, black, red, and four-armed green Barsoomians, as well as the brainy Kaldanes and their brawny Rykor attachments; the intricate histories and cultures of such Barsoomian cities as Helium and Zodanga; and the distinction of powers between such native office-holders as Jeds, Jeddaks, and, of course, the awesome and supreme Jeddak of Jeddaks.

All very interesting, to be sure. But since Barsoom is a version of the planet Mars existing only in the mind of the late and much-lamented Edgar Rice Burroughs, the utility of such degrees may be questioned. Their holders would not only be unacquainted with any real world history or literature, they would be pathetically unable to fulfill any useful function in society (such as changing a tire or fixing the plumbing), save for passing on their hard-won knowledge to other poor schmoes at institutions as ridiculous as the ones they themselves have graduated from. Such is the position of the major in gender studies and the like. Perhaps it would not be so bad if having their resentments stoked would at least benefit them somehow, but it never does.

And perhaps it would not be so bad if students at least received a firm foundation in the primary and secondary grades. But they do not. One knows this in a general way, but I received a special lesson about state educational neglect in Warm Springs, Georgia. There, at FDR’s Little White House, I soon found that the State of Georgia (which runs the facility) no longer funds the audio guides. When I asked a ranger, he explained that state schools no longer teach about President Roosevelt. This means the schools no longer send classes there, and therefore will not renew said guides. When I pointed out that this must mean they were no longer teaching about either the Depression or World War II, he smiled grimly. Since students are still being kept from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., one wonders what they are being taught.

It is not as though numerous institutes and think tanks have not been warning us about the dumbing-down of American education. As early as 1955, Rudolf Flesch wrote his Why Johnny Can’t Read—And What You Can Do About It. Not only was diminution of basic skills not addressed, but, starting in the late Sixties, education acquired a malicious ideological intent. After spending twelve years learning very little, the average student goes to college, takes sufficient remedial math and reading classes to keep up (or not), and then is ripe for the ideological pixie dust his professors want to drop on him. The results of this is what we have been seeing for weeks now, and shall doubtless continue to see, unless or until governments restore order or a bloody reaction does it for them.

The question then arises, “How does one reform such a rotten system?” The most immediately attractive idea is simply to shut down all universities and colleges, and send their Marxist (and other) ideological faculty to work in the fields, even as those hapless oldsters fantasized doing with their own professors during the Cultural Revolution, at the time that Mao’s Little Red Book was the ultimate fashion statement.

Enjoyable as this might be in fantasy, there are many problems with it. But I do think there is a solution.

Firstly, there are far too many universities and colleges clamoring for students in an ever-shrinking recruiting base, thanks to abortion and contraception. Moreover, college degrees are required for the lowliest of positions. All the while, skilled professions are forced to hire foreigners as the number of students who are too dainty to become tool-and-die workers (but whose gender studies degrees won’t land them even fast-food jobs) increases. Meanwhile, purely academic humanities disciplines are corrupted along the lines set down. As a first step, we need to derail the government gravy train.

There are two points to make before I come in for the kill, so to speak. The first is that I am by no means a libertarian. If anything, I’m a good old common good-seeking integralist. In the field of American education, at this place and time, I think our paths converge. Secondly, while I do not believe in separation of Church and State (knowing the state will always be guided by some quasi-religious belief, and desperately wishing it were ours), I have come to believe in separation of School and State.

The first thing to do, therefore, is to cut off federal and state funding for education, and end accreditation, regulation, and compulsory education as well. Many colleges and universities—perhaps most—could and would not survive. Certainly, most of our formerly Catholic Land O’Lakes institutions would die as quickly as any. Many public schools districts would not make it, either. But would that be so bad a thing? What have they brought us, save toppled statues, burning cities, and a population so untrained in either academics or basic skills that it can neither employ logic nor fix anything?

Obviously, those colleges, few as they are, which are not receiving government aid, shall soldier on as before; strangely, they are also the least likely to be putting out the drivel we have been describing. School boards in locations where the populace is sufficiently interested in their children’s welfare could support and manage the primary and secondary schools, as could specific churches and other organizations, as well as the charitable wealthy, who might get tax credits for doing so from local authorities. Corporations, unions, and craft groups could begin running tech schools to train people in useful skills or they could open up apprenticeship programs. By the same token, academically aimed education could once more be specialized from an early age, with primary school students—at the age where they soak up rote information—learning Latin and Greek conjugations, declensions, and vocabulary. Secondary school students would thus be able to read Homer and Virgil in the original tongues, and university-level students could do some real work with this knowledge, thus training their minds literally to learn almost anything they might want to specialize in.

Regardless of the defects of such a system, they could not be worse than what we have. Oh, and the millions upon millions of dollars the federal and state governments would save? Those could easily be spent on compensating the owners of looted shops and restoring statues and monuments defaced or destroyed during this plague. Heaven knows that would be a much wiser expenditure of resources than producing even more of these delinquent mental larvae to burrow still further into the national psyche.

Charles A. Coulombe

www.crisismagazine.com

Liberalism Is a Sin. By Chilton Williamson, Jr.

I have just read a story sent out on July 3 by CWN regarding the suspension of Rev. Theodore Rothrock from public ministry by the Diocese of Lafayette in Indiana, where he was pastor at Saint Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel. The offense that brought about his suspension was an item he wrote in the parish bulletin about Black Lives Matter. The leaders of the organization, he claimed, have a leftist social agenda that ignores the people who support them. Some of the protesters and rioters, he observed, are “maggots” and “parasites” whose behavior should not be tolerated.

Such statements as those are now “unacceptable” in many Catholic parishes and elsewhere in the Church. Bishop Patrick Doherty, CWN reported, “expressed pastoral concern for the affected communities,” or rather elements of it. Which elements they were, he did not stipulate, but it is possible to hazard a guess with fair certainty. “Various possibilities for [Father Rothrock’s] public continuation in priestly ministry are being considered, but he will no longer be assigned as Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel [sic].”

Father Rothrock, predictably but disappointingly, made the appropriate ritual retreat, now de rigeur. “It was not my intention to offend anyone,” he wrote—apparently forgetting the now largely forgotten text that “the truth shall set you free”—“and I am sorry that my words have caused any hurt to anyone.” Charitably overlooking this point, the executive director of the Christian Democratic Caucus has announced an outdoor prayer gathering in support of Father Rothrock. I should say they’d better be careful, or they’ll be sanctioned by Bishop Doherty, too.

Catholic priests represent a wide spectrum of political opinion, and they have many and various political allegiances. The Church does not instruct them regarding whom they should give their votes to, though clearly a man of the cloth who puts his mark beside the name of a candidate who supports the right to abortion or some other immoral cause is in peril of hellfire and in dire need of the confessional and a severe penance.

But why should a Catholic priest even consider voting for such a candidate, assuming some of them actually do? And why should a Catholic bishop discipline a priest who condemns a violently left-wing revolutionary organization that wants to destroy the nuclear family, among many other established, moral, and holy things? The reason would have to be that he is a liberal, and that liberalism is as much a religion (nowadays virtually an established one) as the Church of Rome. As such it is a rival of the Church and a rebel against her.

Further, liberalism is sinful in itself—sinful in its philosophical assumptions, its moral and political doctrines, and its anti-clerical history, as Felix Sard y Salvany, a Spanish priest in the late 19th century, demonstrated in El Liberalismo es pecato (Liberalism Is a Sin). Thus, a priest who is a liberal is a heretic as well, and a priest who sets his loyalty to the religion of liberalism above his loyalty to the Catholic faith is a traitor. As we have been learning in recent decades, there are many such priests around the world and in the United States. It is high time the Vatican identified them all, and dealt with them as they deserve.

Chilton Williamson, Jr.

www.crisismagazine.com