“Whoever exalts race, or the people, or the State, or a particular form of State, or the depositories of power, or any other fundamental value of the human community – however necessary and honorable be their function in worldly things – whoever raises these notions above their standard value and divinizes them to an idolatrous level, distorts and perverts an order of the world planned and created by God; he is far from the true faith in God and from the concept of life which that faith upholds.” — Pope Pius XI, Mit brennender Sorge (March 14, 1937)
“Their conflict is not one of ideologies, for Communism and Naziism are both destructive of human freedom.” — Abp. Fulton Sheen, Philosophies at War (1943)
There are many aspects to the violent, ugly, and shameful actions that have taken place in Charlottesville, Virginia, these past few days but I focus here on just a couple of them, seeking to make a couple of connections to ongoing troubles in the Church.
First, at risk of being misunderstood or misrepresented, I am a bit bemused at the flood of statements, remarks, exhortations, demands, tweets, posts, and declarations that certain groups must—must!—renounce, condemn, and otherwise harshly decry the words and deeds of the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and related haters. It’s as if we GenXers and the Millennials nipping at our heels have never, in all of our many years in public schools and in various public settings, really heard or learned that racism is an evil, as it surely is. But, in fact, if there are any evils that approach the status of objective certainty in the eyes of the ordinary, younger American today, they are surely racism, sexism, and homophobia (and perhaps Islamophobia as well).
A couple of nights ago, as matters turned deadly in Charlottesville, I saw that a well-known Catholic commentator was excoriating “conservatives” and “Trump supporters” and other apparently dubious deplorables for failing to step up and offer endless condemnations. Silence or even a low level of social media shouting was taken, it appears, as a tacit admission of support of said racists. It was a ploy both clever and crude: “Do this, or I’ll have to conclude that you aren’t upholding my lacking, emotive, and ideological assumptions!”
Some study of history, both American and otherwise, as well as nearly thirty years of following politics closely has taught me a handful of near certain things. One of them is that the Left, from its extreme fringes to even its more moderate and mainstream forms, will use anything and everything to smear, deride, shame, and even destroy those deemed politically conservative and orthodox Christian. (I don’t have time, unfortunately, to explain why I’ve never believed Donald Trump is conservative. Another time.) For such folks, many of them quite active in Charlottesville, history exists to be re-written or destroyed, reason is ignored or attacked, and order—social, political, religious, etc.—is to be broken and discarded.
Those considered enemies by the Left are called “bigots” and “racists” and worse, and they told to shut up, grovel, and bow to the angry hordes—whether in the streets or on social media. David Harsanyi sums it well over at The Federalist:
The left doesn’t take responsibility for the violence on its fringes, for the murder of five cops in Dallas, or the assassination attempt on Republican leadership, or the serial vandalism, or the mobs of free-speech antagonists on campuses, or the rioters at WTO, or those who desire to massacre social conservatives in Washington, because it’s inconvenient to the left’s preferred narrative. They don’t see these people as their responsibility. But you, my conservative voter, do you condemn in the harshest terms those Nazis in Charlottesville that you spawned by supporting tax cuts and judicial restraint and Donald Trump? And even then, condemnation is not enough. You may not mention anyone else or any other factor or you risk being smeared as a Nazi-apologist.
Put another way, the Left always seeks to claim and re-name the moral high ground—and has been doing so since the French Revolution (although dated in some ways, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s Leftism, published in 1974, is very instructive regarding the Left’s history, foundations, and tactics). And while not all on the Left are overtly communist or Marxist, they share in the general belief that agitation and the undermining of social order are not just helpful, but necessary, in remaking America. “Communism,” as Fulton Sheen observed eight decades ago, “believes that the only way it can establish itself is by inciting revolution, class struggle, and violence.” Naziism, in both its 20th century and 21st century forms, also relies on similar actions, but often seek to appeal to a perverted form of religion in doing so, while focusing on race rather than class. (Of course, “identity politics” are just another form of racism, and one used very effectively by the Left.)
Violence, hatred, and disorder are essential to both; they are not so much directly opposed to one another as they are demented twins separated at birth, pursuing forms of atheism that cut the bonds between God and man, moral law and social order, objective truth and human nature. Thus, Sheen also said: “There are two kinds of ‘atheism’: the atheism of the right, which professes to love God and ignores neighbor; and the atheism of the left, which professes to love neighbor and ignores God.” The two were responsible, in the past century, for the deaths of tens of millions; the two are now, in various forms and under many (and often misleading) names, battling and brawling on American soil. Both ideologies are diabolical and both rely heavily on youth who are unmoored, unrooted, historically illiterate, philosophically clueless, angry, preening, and morally confused.
The incoherence of the Leftist mobs can be seen in the now escalating destruction of statues and the demand that others be destroyed. Personally, I think each community (as locally as possible) should decide, after coherent and careful discussion and debate, what should be done with particular statues. But, of course, the morally superior among us have taken it upon themselves to make final judgments. Democracy? Who cares! Rational discussion? Hell, no! Respect for fellow citizens? Never! For these philistines, it’s very simple: they have judged these monuments to be racist, bigoted, and hateful, and so they must be destroyed. Those who object must be shamed and silenced. Period.
None of this should be surprising. The Left has worked with maniacal focus for decades to remake country, culture, and creed in the shape of an equality that is incoherent and a freedom that is inhuman. Yes, of course the neo-Nazis, racists, and white supremacists should be denounced and exposed for what they are and what they do. But they have not been the ones dominating the political classes, the media, the halls of higher education, and other key positions of power these past several decades. They are not the ones preaching and promoting the supposed joys and freedoms of the sexual revolution, abortion on demand, homosexuality, transgenderism, serial monogamy, cohabitation, and a hundred other sins and evils.
In short, the Left has proven countless times it has no right to be taken seriously as the voice of moral goodness and social order. Quite the contrary. And yet there are those, even within the Church, who are happy to play the same hypocritical—and, alas, destructive—game of deflection, distraction, and obfuscation. And so, for example, Fr. James Martin, S.J, posted a ten-part tweet recently addressed to “Christian White Supremacists”, stating the following (I’ve combined the tweets into one statement here):
Your Savior told you never to “lord” power over anyone, and that you must be the “servants” of all. (Mt 20: 25-27) Jesus also selected a group of nonwhite disciples, after growing up with his nonwhite family in the Middle East (Lk 2:51; Mt. 10: 1-4). And when Jesus encountered people from other regions (like Samaria, and Tyre and Sidon) or other religions (like the Roman centurion) …he always treated them with dignity, and offered them both welcome and healing (Jn 4:1-42; Mt 15:21-28; Mt 8: 5-13). The notion that Jesus would want his followers to exclude people because they’re different from us or that he wants us to see anyone, or any group, as “less than” is completely against his life and his teachings. So how can you call yourself “supreme” over anyone, or any race, or any group, and still consider yourself a Christian? Placing yourself over nonwhites also means that you’re placing yourself “first,” and do you remember Jesus’s teaching about that? “The first shall be last” (Mt 20:16). So your greatest danger is not nonwhites living in your state. It’s the state of your soul.
The problem is not in what Fr. Martin says; in fact, I agree completely with his remarks as they stand. Again, we have been deeply and consistently catechized about the evils of racism. But why is racism wrong? Why do we rightly recognize that all men are equal in some objective and substantive way? The Catechism sums it up nicely, stating: “Created in the image of the one God and equally endowed with rational souls, all men have the same nature and the same origin. Redeemed by the sacrifice of Christ, all are called to participate in the same divine beatitude: all therefore enjoy an equal dignity” (par 1934).
In other words, racism is evil because it is contrary to our origins, our nature, and our end. And social justice (a term misused often for many things contrary to social order and authentic justice), the Catechism emphasizes, “can be obtained only in respecting the transcendent dignity of man. The person represents the ultimate end of society, which is ordered to him…” (par 1929; emphasis added). Secular ideologies and philosophies are not capable of providing an objective basis for the equal dignity of all men. The protester who screams “Racist!” while also bowing to the creed of abortion, homosexuality, and other ills is intellectually incoherent and morally absurd.
Yet Fr. Martin, who warns racists of the real danger to their eternal souls, has not and apparently will not utter warnings about the grave dangers (spiritual, surely, but also physical, emotional, and psychological) of homosexual acts and relationships. As Dr. Eduardo Echeverria observed in his CWR review of Fr. Martin’s best-selling book Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity:
[O]ne would think that in a book about human sexuality, an author writing from a Catholic perspective would identify the specific sexual struggles of the moral life in Christ as the sixth commandment bears upon them, and the corresponding sexual sins against chastity. But no, they receive no attention; they do not figure in this book at all.
The matters of race and sex are more closely related than might initially appear. One way of putting it is that just as racism is sinful because it goes contrary to man’s divine origin and end, homosexual acts are sinful because they are contrary to man’s nature; they are disordered and contrary to God’s law. “Sexual pleasure is morally disordered,” says the Catechism, “when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes” (par 2351). And in a passage that Fr. Martin says should be changed, the Catechism states:
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (par. 2357)
To boldly denounce racism while tacitly accepting or even encouraging the aims and activities of the “LGBT community” (another convenient political construct) is to oh-so-bravely toe the dominant line and tactic of the Leftist agenda. It is hypocritical; it is disingenuous; it places lives and souls in grave danger. It is unfitting for any Catholic, whether a priest or a layman.
“There is no true freedom except in the service of what is good and just,” the Church says in her divine wisdom, “The choice to disobey and do evil is an abuse of freedom and leads to ‘the slavery of sin.'” (CCC, 1733). Which is worse: being a slave to another person or being a slave to sin? Stating the obvious truth about racism is a good thing; stating the inconvenient truth about man, sexuality, and our eternal end is also good. It is also imperative. And very unpopular. But touting social justice without proclaiming moral truth makes you no better than the political ideologues who lie, distort, bully, shame, and mock.
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