FROM ACROSS THE POND
The week of June 20 of this year will go down in American Catholic history as a banner week for the victory of Catholic social teaching on the two biggest fronts: the right to life and parental freedom of choice in education. Hence, much discussion in this column on those two issues.
The Big News on Abortion
On June 24, in Dobbs v. Jackson, the Supreme Court of the United States upended its infamous Roe decision of 1973, which canceled out any and all protections for unborn children in the fifty states. The five good Catholics on the Court, along with Justice Gorsuch (not a Catholic but Catholic-educated), constituted the majority opinion, which returned the abortion issue to the several states (the bad Catholic on the Court, Sonia Sotomayor, voted with the minority).
Now, to be clear about this decision: It does not ban abortion in the country; it merely held that there is no constitutional right to abortion and, therefore, should be a matter to be settled at the state level. As a result, the right-to-life battle will now have to be waged on a state-by-state basis. Already, more than twenty states have banned abortion. However, the most populous states in the Northeast and on the West Coast will undoubtedly continue the barbaric practice because those population centers are notably far more “liberal” than the rest of the nation – and they are doing everything possible to “codify” a right to abortion (e.g., California and New York).
From the outset, the Catholic Church was the strongest and loudest opponent of abortion- on-demand, which enabled pro-abortionists to paint the issue as a uniquely Catholic cause. The annual March for Life in Washington in January (usually frigid, even accompanied by sleet and snow) brought out tens of thousands of marchers – the vast majority of whom have been Catholics, either currently or formerly products of our Catholic schools.
No surprise, then, that the unhinged Left have targeted our churches for vandalism and disruption of liturgical services. Those of us with a sense of history will regard such responses as dejà vu experiences, reminiscent of the burning down of our convents and schools in the nineteenth century. The Department of Justice has done nothing to stop these attacks; nor has the Department of Justice done anything to protect the homes and lives of the six justices who voted to overturn Roe – even after an assassination attempt on Justice Brett Kavanaugh!
As I have pointed out before, it is worth noting that although Catholics account for only 24% of the overall population, six of the nine sitting justices are Catholic (with a seventh having been educated in our schools); this is a testimony to the incredibly out-sized footprint the Church has in the United States, due to her incredibly effective schools.
Public opinion polls show that the majority of Americans support the Dobbs decision. Republicans in the House of Representatives introduced a resolution declaring June “month of life,” in celebration of the overturning of Roe; it stands no chance of going any farther since “the party of death” (as Cardinal Dolan calls the Democrats) have the majority.
The preeminent mistress of the “word salad,” Vice-President Kamala Harris, has turned her boundless skills to the theology of abortion, informing numerous audiences (pardon her butchering of English grammar): “It’s important to note that to support a woman’s ability — not her government, but her — to make that decision does not require anyone to abandon their faith or their beliefs.” On yet another occasion, she pontificated: “For those of us of faith, I think that we agree, many of us, that there’s nothing about this issue that will require anyone to abandon their faith or change their faith.” Given the fact that Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Evangelicals and Orthodox Jews all believe otherwise, perhaps she is suggesting that these are not real religions?
Prayer at Sporting Events?
In yet another Supreme Court decision, this one released on June 27, Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, a very bizarre case was settled. A football (not soccer!) coach was terminated at a government high school because he refused to stop kneeling to pray at the 50-yard line after games. In another 6-3 decision, the majority held that the school district violated the religious freedom rights of the coach. This decision goes counter to much of the very negative, restrictive Court opinions of the past fifty years or more (e.g., prayer in government schools and the like). The bishops’ conference had filed an amicus brief on behalf of the coach. Reacting to the majority opinion, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and chairman of the Committee for Religious Liberty commented: “The freedom to pray is essential to the moral duty all people possess toward the truth. The Court’s decision to prevent the forced expulsion of voluntary prayer from public life is a major victory for all Americans who wish to discover and live the truth.”
The Crisis of Fatherlessness
In a recent interview, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida (a good Catholic) highlighted the breakdown of the family and said the lack of fathers is the main source of America’s problems:
“If you had every kid in America with a loving father in the home, we would have far, far fewer problems that we would have to deal with as a society.” While such an assessment reflects nothing more than common sense to “normal” people, that kind of statement is greeted with scorn and derision by societal power-brokers.
Gay Pride on Display at the US Embassy to the Holy See
Continuing a practice begun last year by the US embassy to the Holy See in Rome, the gay pride flag was on display for “pride month.” Adding insult to injury, a statement was issued: “Today is the start of [Pride Month.] The United States respects and promotes the equality and human dignity of all people including the LGBTQIA+ community." One wonders if an American diplomat in a Muslim-controlled country would be so forthright and brazen.
Prince Harry Again
The UK’s gift to the US is at it again: In Prince Harry’s address to the UN for Nelson Mandela Day, he took the opportunity to slam the United States for the “rolling back of constitutional rights,” presumably an allusion to the overturn of Roe. One pundit suggested that if the US and UK ever get into another war, the loser must claim Harry and his bride.
Pro-life Centers under Siege
Just when you think you’ve heard it all, a pro-life pregnancy clinic in a Buffalo (New York) suburb was fire-bombed (like so many others in the wake of Dobbs). Instead of searching out the perpetrators and bringing them to justice, the pro-life center is being investigated for offering "limited service" and failure to provide "accurate, non-coercive health care information" and "a comprehensive range of reproductive and sexual health care services," in keeping with one of many draconian anti-life measures signed into law on June 13 by bad Catholic Governor Kathy Hochul.
An example of Cardinal Ratzinger’s “Dictatorship of Relativism”?
A state high school in a Seattle (Washington) suburb is requiring upperclassmen who wish to mentor underclassmen to sign a Code of Conduct, pledging allegiance to a panoply of leftist causes. According to a news report: “Students must initial next to the statements that they believe ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘Love is Love,’ ‘No Human is Illegal,’ ‘Women’s rights are human rights,’ and ‘Kindness is everything.’” School officials said they would “look into” the situation.
Leftist “Tolerance” in Action
A pro-life high school student in the northwest of New Jersey was attacked by a mob of pro-abortion students. In a refreshing change of pace, the district’s superintendent of schools, Jeffrey Moore, declared: “I want to reiterate, certainly the most distressing moments of this incident in the behavior that was shown to counter-protesters who had arrived and those involved. Shoving, expletive-laden verbal aggression, vandalism to signs, signs were knocked over, thrown, kicked, all of those things that made this a most distressing and disrespectful scene and example of student behavior against a student there who showed up with another viewpoint.”
Reactions to the Overturn of “Roe”
Within hours of the release of the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe, President Biden called the decision “a tragic error” and immediately called on Congress to codify abortion rights into federal law. He has enlisted his minions to find every possible loophole to guarantee access to abortion, including turning federal parks and military bases into abortion facilities. Interestingly, in 1982, Senator Biden voted for legislation to reverse Roe – what a difference forty years can make.
In a recent interview, Pope Francis spoke of Biden’s abortion extremism as “incoherence,” which he needed to discuss with his pastor. This was enough to send the Left into apoplexy.
The Pontifical Council for Life weighed in on the Dobbs decision, referring to it as a “challenge” to the world, which indeed it is; after all, this is the first instance of a nation rolling back permissive abortion policy.
A number of bishops have come to the side of Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone in his banning Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, from reception of Holy Communion. The bishops of Colorado also named several Catholic politicians of their State who voted for pro-abortion legislation and instructed them not to present themselves for Communion.
A Triumph for Parental Freedom of Choice in Education
June 21, 2022, will go down in American educational history as a red-letter day for parental rights in education and for the full flowering of the free exercise of religion. On that date, the Supreme Court of the United States delivered its decision in Carson v. Makin, a case originating in the State of Maine, concerned with the denial of tuition benefits for children attending faith-based private schools.
The case was decided by a 6-3 vote, with the majority opinion being written by Chief Justice John Roberts (concurring were: Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, Amy Coney Barrett). The dissenting opinion was offered by Justice Stephen Breyer, with Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Sonia Sotomayor (in part, with her own dissent). As is her wont, Sotomayor – a graduate of schools of the Archdiocese of New York – continued to distance herself totally from Catholic positions.
It may surprise some to learn that the State of Maine has numerous jurisdictions without secondary schools, given its very rural nature. As a result, the State forged a plan, whereby parents could “sign up” with nearby schools, both public and private, to provide for the education of their children – at the expense of the municipality where they lived. To qualify, a school must fulfill certain curriculum requirements, including use of English as the language of instruction, as well a course in “Maine history, including the Constitution of Maine…and Maine’s cultural and ethnic heritage,” and maintaining a student-teacher ratio of not more than 30 to 1.” The program is amazingly open-ended, imposing no geographic limitation, such that parents may designate tuition payments to schools inside or outside the State, or even in foreign countries. The problem was that the statute banned tuition assistance to parents of children in faith-based schools – although it permitted it for non-religious “private” (that is, non-governmental) schools.
The majority ruled that the exclusion of religious schools violated the free exercise clause of the First Amendment, thus also invalidating the infamous “Blaine Amendments” of many states – enacted in the 19 th century to make attendance at Catholic schools so onerous as to have them disappear. This is all a very complicated matter, historically and legislatively. I wrote a detailed commentary on this Court decision for Catholic World Report and am here providing a link to that article for those interested in pursuing the matter: https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2022/07/02/a-day-of-vindication-for-parents-and-religious-rreedom/.
Two points to conclude: First, in no way will we accept direct funding from the government. The Maine plan – like many others – gives the financial support to parents who, in turn, pass it on to the school of their choice. Our skittishness comes from taking seriously the adage: He who pays the piper calls the tune. Second, within days of this decision, the State of Arizona enacted legislation providing parents with a voucher up to $7,000 per child for any school – religious or secular. This is most significant because the average Catholic elementary school tuition hovers around $5,000, while our secondary schools come in around $10,000. The floodgates of parental choice programs will be flowing – the reward for the grit and determination of American Catholics who have fought for such justice for more than 150 years.
Catholic Health Care in Jeopardy
The largest association of Catholic individuals in health care has condemned the Biden Administration for ordering health care providers to perform abortions in emergency situations under federal law. On July 11, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Xavier Becerra (another bad Catholic) instructed providers to perform abortions in emergencies — regardless of state law — under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).
Dr. Marie Hilliard, co-chairperson of the Catholic Medical Association's Ethics Committee, commented: “Catholic health care agencies and providers are committed to the same goals intended by EMTALA. They are dedicated to providing the highest standard of care to both the mother and her unborn child without directly compromising either one in the process.”
This directive flies in the face of the Dobbs decision, which makes it clear that the federal government has no role to play in abortion.
Classical Education and a Trade
Word has just gone out that Franciscan University of Steubenville is going to have company this coming academic year, with the establishment of the College of St. Joseph the Worker. The new school will combine a liberal arts education with training in a trade. This is sorely needed. At the secondary level, the Salesians in this country provided a similar educational program, but scarcely one or two of those survive. It seems to me that a college student should not have to choose between a classical education and preparation for a trade, all done within a strong Catholic milieu. The advance material promises that graduates will not be saddled with crippling debt. Although not organically tied to Franciscan University, the earmarks of “Steubie” are all over the project, Deo gratias. For further information: https://www.thecollegefix.com/learn-a-trade-earn-a-degree-and-graduate-without-crippling-debt-catholic-trade-college-launches/.
A Miraculous Prayer Card?
During July Fourth fireworks, a gunfight took place on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia (as in most Democrat-controlled cities, violence is commonplace). Bullets hit two police officers, but neither sustained serious injuries. This was the case for one of the officers due to the memorial prayer card he had placed in his hat, seeking prayerful remembrance for the City’s beloved police chaplain, Oblate Father Steven Wetzel, who had died a few weeks before the incident at the age of 64 after a brief illness. When the bullet pierced the officer’s hat, it literally stopped before doing any further damage!
During Father Wetzel’s tenure as chaplain, he often accompanied officers during their last shifts, providing support in crisis situations. With Sgt. Michael Cerruti, he co-founded the Michael the Archangel (patron saint of police officers) Ministry, offering pastoral care, crisis ministry and spiritual enrichment opportunities to 14,000 police officers, both active and retired, and their families. Sgt. Cerruti observed: “There is no doubt in my mind that Father Steve saved that officer’s life,” adding that he also keeps Father Wetzel’s prayer card with him at all times, as do many other officers. Since that episode, the Philadelphia police will print 10,000 more cards and have them laminated and distributed to officers for them to feel Father Wetzel’s presence and protection when most needed.