Many years ago when turning on, tuning in and dropping out was all the rage, when free speech was championed on campuses, and free love in public parks; when Kumbaya was enjoying top ten status as a Communion hymn and rainbows and clowns decorated priestly vestments; when churches rang with applause and home baked bread was all the rage at the “Supper of the Lord”, Father Eugene J. O’Sullivan (R.I.P.) spoke to me outside of Visitation Church in The Bronx, NY, after Mass one bright Sunday morning.
I don’t remember his precise words, but they went something like this in a long conversation about the “changes” in Catholic life after VII. Changes which were all for the good, mind you. Changes which would bring that old fogey church in line with the modern world.
“The time is coming, Peter,” he said with the grim smile of someone who know a battle is brewing, and who kind of welcomed its arrival, “when the church will be a mere remnant and this country will be mission territory.” Then he reached down and tousled the hair of my little girl whom he had baptized. She looked up at him and smiled her own innocence. He cocked his head at her, looking at me with the same smile on his face, his eyes twinkling with challenge and fight.
Twenty or so years later another priest held up her daughter, my first grandchild, after he had christened her; held her above his head in a dramatic gesture. “What I have just done,” he said to us all, “could well be a death sentence for her.” It was “pin drop” time in the large church. Then the Modern Religion Lite orchestra over in the corner, twenty strong, struck up a bang of a tune, one of the top twenty feel-good-about-yourself tunes in play in churches all over this land back then, and everyone forgot about what the priest had just said. Here?? In America??? Nah! No way!! Ring those Foozinglers. Bang those Zoomboombers! Make a joyful noise and let’s get something good to eat before the game begins.
The other night I thought of these two incidents as I watched some You Tube videos of the recent Japanese Tsunami.
“Yeah, ” I said to myself, remembering the old song with a lyric something like, ” house built on a stone foundation…”
Then I prayed, and tried not to be too “ascared”.
I am pretty sure if Father O’Sullivan was still around today he would standing out in front of some large white neo-classical somewhere important telling the truth to authority. At the same time, he’d be telling us the truth, too. Why, he told John Lindsey, the Mayor of New York, where he could put his brand new city swimming pool after he had built it in a lovely park just across the street from the church, and upended life in that neighborhood. Father had been invited to give the invocation and prayed for the mayor not to be judged too harshly for having ruined a lovely space just so he could get re-elected.
We’ll need guys like him. We’ll have to become guys like him.
Up on Capitol Hill, just across the street from that big building where about 600 boys and girls do nothing and get paid by us to do so, sits the stone edifice in which is housed the Supreme Court of these Untied States. There a couple of weeks ago by a margin of five to four the Nine decided against liberty and freedom and for taxation and oppression. They affirmed en passant in their decision regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that the few who choose not to buy medical insurance for themselves or their employees must “pay a penalty” for not doing so. Well, the law calls it a penalty. It is, actually, a tax; one of several new ones they thought would be nice for us to pay, those 600 folks and our president.
Along with new taxes, the new law limits our freedom in ways that are only going to get worse. Folks, like me, who believe certain things are wrong will simply have to shut up and suck it up to pay for other folks who don’t believe those thing are wrong and want to do them. Or, go to jail, I expect, for what they believe since non-payment of a tax is a jailable offense. Or, go out of business. Either way it stinks. But, it has a nice name to cover up the stink; Mandate.
Smarter guys than me have thought about this and come to the same conclusion Father O’ Sullivan came to nearly a half century ago. Here’s what they are saying:
This from an article in Crisis Magazine by Fr. George Rutler:
“Catholic institutions and small businesses owned by those with religious and moral reservations about government-imposed policies, will wither within a very short time, unable to bear the burden of confiscatory tax penalties. As analysts have figured, an employer offering a health plan that does not comply with the preventive services package and other requirements under the federal health plan could be subject to a confiscatory penalty. The fine, imposed through a civil penalty or excise tax on a non-exempted religious employer could be as much as $100 a day for each employee insured under a plan at variance with federal law. The burden would amount then to $36,500 for each employee.
Add to that the approaching discrimination against Catholics seeking positions in commerce and public life. Catholics will not be suitable for public charities, medicine, education, journalism, or in the legal profession, especially judgeships and law enforcement. As the bishops, by the acknowledgement of many of their own number, failed to articulate the cogency of doctrines on contraception and other moral issues, so will they now, despite the best intentions, not be able to stem the radical attrition among native Catholics whose eyes are on mammon, and among recent immigrants whose privileges are guaranteed only if they vote for opponents of the Church. The general election of 2012 may rally the fraction of conscientious Catholics among the sixty million or so sympathetic Catholics. If their influence is not decisive, and the present course of federal legislation accelerates, encouraged by a self-destructive appetite for welfare statism on the part of ecclesiastical bureaucrats, the majority of Catholics with tenuous commitments to the Faith will evaporate, as did the lapsed baptized in North Africa during the oppression of the emperor Diocletian.
Should the present direction of the federal government be endorsed by a reiterative vote in the November elections, more blatant threats to the Church will begin, culminating in a punitive suspension of tax exemptions on church properties, once the Church’s moral precepts are coded as offenses against civil rights. The test case in this instance will be what is known in Orwellian diction as “same sex marriage.”
and this in another article from Crisis Magazine by Christopher Manion:
With the loss at the Supreme Court, we will have to adopt the position that the Mandate is a bad law and we will not follow it regardless of our loss in court. “Sore losers!” will come the reply.
Why not just tell the truth now? Yes, our First Amendment rights are fundamental – in fact, they existed long before the Bill of Rights was written. But the courts are no longer bound by Jefferson’s “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” and they have said so. With regard to our religious freedom, they simply cannot be trusted. And for that judgment we have ample precedent.
New York Gov. Charles Evans Hughes, before he became Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, affirmed 95 years ago that “we are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is, and the judiciary is the safeguard of our liberty and of our property under the Constitution.”
As they say in the town where I was born, “Sez who?” The Supremes just finished saying that rights don’t matter where the law’s concerned. The law has nothing to do at all with rights unless the law says it’s a right. It’s called Legal Positivism.
Mr. Manion’s article puts the case rather clearly:
Legal Positivism rests on the assumption that the law need have no basis in morality. As Notre Dame Professor of Constitutional Law Charles Rice has noted, “Hans Kelsen, the father of legal positivism, observed that Auschwitz and the Soviet Gulags were valid law. He could not criticize them as unjust because justice, he said, is ‘an irrational ideal.’”
Kelsen’s view holds not only for Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, but for America today. During the Senate hearings considering the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Biden repeatedly browbeat the nominee about the dangers of applying the Natural Law in American jurisprudence. “You come before this committee with a philosophy different from that which we have seen in any Supreme Court nominee in the [last] 19 years,” he sniffed. What did Biden find so “different”? Simple: “You are an adherent to the view that the Natural Law should inform the Constitution.” Biden couldn’t have been more clear: appeals to the Natural Law will fail in the Supreme Court.
Senator Patrick Leahy then asserted that the Natural Law is “elastic,” a notion which Biden seconded by alleging that his version of the Natural Law protects abortion rights. But Judge Thomas would not engage the legal issue. “My interest in the whole area was as a political philosophy,” he told Biden.
Biden, Leahy, and Thomas are all Catholics. So is Justice Kennedy, who wrote in 1992 that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Clearly current jurisprudence has sundered the courts from the true source of justice. They simply cannot be trusted.
I like that bit about Auschwitz and the Gulags. You doubt the truth? Can you say Roe v. Wade? We’ve done for about 50 million people since then. That’s a hell of a lot better than the Nazis, and we are inching up on the Soviets. We the Christian country, the Shining Beacon of Liberty, the City on a Hill.
Or so we have thought about ourselves from the comfort of our place in the pew while Father Significant Gesture tells us how good we are, how much God loves us and how nice everything is. In Father Rutler’s article he calls us the Comfort Catholics, those who haven’t yet stalked off for one reason or another. We, the ones who have gotten used to accommodating ourselves to the softnesses of everything about life here in the 21st century, and a very helpful government always ready to fluff the pillows for us; just fill in this form, please, and follow this regulation, Dear.
It’s the law. And, it’s for everyone’s good.
Manion’s article talks about that at some length, that law thing: Legal Positivism. That’s a fancy way of saying that law is what lawyers say it is, only that and nothing more.
We are on our way this morning to sing an old lady home. She was 90, or thereabouts, one of the lucky ones to leave on one of the last trains before they close the borders. Sometimes I wish I was going, too. Because I have my eyes open and see what’s coming next, and wonder if I’ll be one or the other, a Comfort Catholic (or Christian..it ain’t only us!) or a Combat Catholic.
I wish, sometimes, that Father “O” was till around. He’d make a good combat chaplain.
The time is coming, indeed the time is here, when we will have to choose between comfort or Christ.