From across the pond...
Ronile, Pixabay.com
From across the pond...

From across the pond...

From across the pond…

Fr Peter Stravinskas reports from the USA

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School Choice

As regular readers of this column should know, the Church in the United States has been fighting for educational choice and parity for over 150 years. As I have repeated ad infinitum, we do not want State monies flowing into church or school coffers because we have learned from the experience of other countries, such subsidies always come at a high price.

Hence, our push has been for direct aid to parents (as the primary educators of their children and thus by nature apt to choose the most appropriate educational setting for their children).

Yet another consideration: Through the 1960s and 1970s, such aid programs were perceived as uniquely “Catholic” concerns and enemies of school choice played the anti-Catholic card, to great advantage. Interestingly, the Southern Baptists – notoriously opposed to anything that could have the remotest benefit to Catholics – historically argued that any aid to “sectarian” schools (that adjective always signals nasty and unfair debate; the neutral term is “faith-based”) was a clear violation of their cherished “separation of Church and State.” Ironically, they controlled the so-called “public” schools of the South; once they lost their stranglehold on the government schools and began to open their own “sectarian” schools, they have a new and more “enlightened” view of constitutional law: They now favor school choice!

When we add our traditional allies in school choice initiatives, namely, Lutherans and Orthodox Jews, we have an impressive ecumenical and interfaith coalition. Beyond that, totally secular folk are now totally disabused of the notion of how wonderful the government schools are – one of the positive side-effects of the “pandemic” as they saw, first-hand, the abysmal state of “public” education.

As a result, the past year saw the expansion or introduction of choice programs in 18 States, coming in the form of either tax credits or vouchers: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia. Noticeably absent are almost all States of the Northeast, where the teacher unions have almost absolute dominion and where Democrats reign supreme.

If the predicted “red wave” of Republican victories for both the House of Representatives and Senate materialize, we can expect federal programs to surface.

School Choice – A Particular Case

In December, the Supreme Court heard a case originating in Maine; this presents a fascinating situation.

Unbeknownst to me – and apparently thousands of others – many rural communities in Maine do not have their own schools and thus “farm out” their students to nearby municipalities, paying them tuition. More to the point, parents are permitted to select any school – “public” or “private.” There is one hitch, however, a “private” school cannot be a “sectarian” school (there’s that mischievous designation again). Several parents are plaintiffs in the case; none use Catholic schools (but their contention would hold for any faith-based school).

Justice Brett Kavanaugh (himself a product of Catholic schools, like five other of the Justices as well!) weighed in: “That's just discrimination on the basis of religion right there at that – at the neighborhood level… I think it's important on this public discord or strife issue to emphasize that, as I understand it, they are seeking equal treatment, not special treatment. They're – they're saying don't treat me worse because I want to send my children to a religious school rather than a secular school. Treat me the same as the secular parent next door. I think that's what they are asking for, is equal treatment.”

Given the questions raised by the Justices, it appears that the Maine policy will be declared discriminatory, opening the way for broad programs of support for parental freedom of educational choice.

Another “Fake” Catholic in the Biden Administration

Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra, announced that his Department would be revoking any religious waivers for faith-based child welfare groups and altering enforcement provisions for religious liberty. Fox News asked Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler (Texas) for his reaction to Becerra’s announcement: “More brokenness from so-called Catholics...maybe we should send him a Catechism.” That says it all.

Assessments of China

Many pessimistic assessments of an accelerating campaign against religion and the treatment of ethnic and religious minorities in mainland China have surfaced, including a warning from former Ambassador-at-Large on International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback (a Catholic convert), who described the Chinese Communist Party-led government of President Xi Jinping as “evil.”

In an interview with the Jesuit America magazine, Timothy Cardinal Dolan of New York had this to say about the Holy See’s approach to Communist China: “My gut also tells me that you can’t negotiate with these people. It could be extraordinarily counterproductive.”

A Last Democrat Hold-out

Former Congressman Dan Lipinski of Illinois spoke at a conference at Notre Dame University in November, reflecting on his attempt to remain in the Democrat Party, while holding to his pro-life convictions.

Impressively, he observed:

For sixteen years, with God’s grace, I tried however imperfectly to play my part as a Catholic in Congress…I went to Congress knowing that I would face challenges within my party on some non-negotiable issues. I forthrightly proclaimed my position on these issues and said that I would not change. This caused consternation among the sectarian partisans in my party, who viewed me with suspicion and saw my refusal to always follow the party line as betrayal. I was committed to being a Catholic first, before being a Democrat, and people recognized that. I had more than one constituent come up to me and say… “You vote Catholic.”

Lipinski was effectively drummed out of the Democrat party of death, as Cardinal Dolan has termed them.

Covid-related school closures

We thought Covid-excuses for not having in-person classes were over and done. Well, guess again. With the post-Christmas return to school, we now find government school teacher unions around the country (but especially in Chicago) declaring the impossibility of returning to classrooms, out of – here’s always the catch-phrase) “an abundance of caution.” More rational voices – more concerned about children than lazy teachers – point to the Catholic schools that have almost universally maintained full, in-person education – with no deleterious effects on anyone in their school communities. It must be all the “Hail Marys”!

Pro-life Ecumenism

The earliest organized opposition to abortion-on-demand in America came from the bishops of our nation. In fact, the National Abortion Rights Action League targeted our bishops as Public Enemy Number One and attempted to resurrect the historical anti-Catholicism of the country to garner support for their cause. With the passage of time, Evangelical Christians (our traditional “enemies”) began to join us in abortion clinic protests. While initially “turned off” by our recitation of the Rosary at such events, not a few came to an appreciation of that prayer form – and not a few even ended up as Catholics. Eastern Orthodox have also become more visible in the fight. Some observers have pointed out that our annual March for Life in Washington, coinciding with the Supreme Court’s Roe decision on January 22, 1973, always falls within the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity – January 18-25.

Support for the sanctity of human life also transcends Christianity, with Orthodox Jews, Buddhists, Hindus (and even secularists), forming the pro-life alliance of the nation.

Parental Rights and Abortion

This past December, J.B. Pritzger, Governor of Illinois signed into law a bill no longer calling for parental notification regarding the potential abortion of underage girls. The Bishop of Springfield (capital of the State), Thomas Paprocki – both a civil and canon lawyer – reacted in the strongest of terms: “… the government has provided evil the cover of darkness in which it thrives,” he said. “The Devil desires darkness and despises the light. It is striking how much this legislation does to provide cover, secrecy, and darkness over evil deeds.” He also noted that the law basically gives a “free pass” to sex traffickers by making it easier for them to abuse young girls and cover up their crimes. Zeroing in particularly on the legislation’s violation of parents’ rights, Bishop Paprocki declared: “This is a right and responsibility that God grants, and which no government can take away. In attempting to do so, this legislation acts directly against God’s will, which is the very definition of evil.”

Catholic High School and a Walk-out

In a highly unusual and most embarrassing situation, this past November Archbishop Riordan High School in San Francisco held an all-school assembly featuring pro-life activist Megan Almon. During the assembly, a number of students walked out in protest of the event. Subsequently, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone went to Riordan High School to meet with student leaders in small groups on November 8.

One of our proudest boasts in the States is that our Catholic high school students are proudly pro-life, which has been noted with dismay by enemies of life. Hence, this is a gross anomaly. The Archbishop’s letter to the school community, published in First Things, is a model of pastoral leadership and deserves a wide reading: https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2021/11/an-open-letter-to-the-students-of-archbishop-riordan-high-school.

Given the anomalous nature of this protest, one can only conclude that this “walk-out” was orchestrated by outside sources.

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Pious Joe’s Ratings

Biden’s approval ratings with practicing Catholics and Republicans have been abysmal, from Day One. It appears the rest of the country has now caught on to the smoke-and-mirrors game. Ole’ Joe can now boast of the lowest approval rating of any president in modern history – below 36%, as of this writing.

The Supreme Court and Abortion

With the Supreme Court’s hearing of the Mississippi law banning abortion after 15 weeks – and the seemingly positive reaction of a majority of the justices toward the law – serious commentators are looking toward a post-Roe climate.

However, one of the consistent objections raised to the possible overturn of Roe v. Wade (the infamous decision that legalized abortion in all fifty states) is that such a development would upturn the quasi-sacred notion of judicial “precedents.” In “Precedents Are No Obstacle to Overturning Roe v. Wade,“ an op-ed by Robert P. George and Christopher Kaczor, the authors argue that if there is a textbook case for overturning precedent, Roe—and its 63 million victims—qualifies.

They quote the liberal Erwin Chemerinsky who summarized several key reversals:

The power of these examples is that they are non-partisan. Liberals and conservatives alike can agree that the court was wrong in Dred Scott v. Sanford in holding that slaves are property and not citizens, in Plessy v. Ferguson in upholding separate but equal and in Korematsu v. United States in ruling in favor of the authority of the government to evacuate Japanese-Americans from the west coast during World War II.

They add: “Overturning a Supreme Court ruling is scarcely unheard of or even particularly novel. The Court has done it nearly 150 times.” They note that Roe is as contentious and divisive today as it was in 1973, perhaps more so. Further: “The Court’s unwarranted exercise of raw power did nothing to temper the division and much to enflame it. In that respect, as in others, it profoundly resembles Dred Scott v. Sandford, and deserves to join that infamous ruling on the ash heap of history.”

Cause for Rejoicing on the Pro-life Front

At times, the obstacles to the good in society can seem overwhelming, which makes highlighting “good news” so important, lest we lose heart.

With that in mind, Christian Action News this past December posted the following accomplishments on behalf of life:

– Over 100 pro-life state laws were passed in 2021

– 41 sanctuary cities now outlaw abortion

– Scientific facts support pro-life convictions

– 3D & 4D ultra-sounds support life

– Pro-lifers have more children than pro-aborts

– Most Millennials are pro-life

– In the last seven years, 550 abortion employees have quit

– Pregnancy care sites outnumber abortion mills 7 to 1

– 36 abortion mills closed in 2019

– In 1991, there were 2,176 abortion mills; in 2020, 712

– Planned Parenthood lost 400,000 donors in 2019

 

More Abortion Politics

The State of New Jersey has reached two new lows (with its “Fake” Catholic Governor): Now, non-doctors can perform abortions. In the final hour of the legislative session, a radical piece of legislation was passed, essentially enshrining abortion rights into law – regardless of what the Supreme Court may say on the matter.

The City of Boston – in a genuine act of perversion – now gives its employees twelve weeks of paid leave after an abortion.

On a happier note, Ohio Governor Mike Dewine (a serious Catholic, with eight children) has signed a bill requiring life-saving means to be used for babies who survive an abortion.

A new report from American Life League found that the average salary of a Planned Parenthood CEO at its 53 affiliates increased 89% over the past nine years, and two of its national leaders made more than $1 million. Yes, as is ever the case, follow the money!