Collaboration with Secularists Undermines Catholic Social Goals

To all appearances, everyday life is becoming ever more at odds with the Catholic vision of what it should be. It’s becoming less like life as traditionally conceived, a network of relationships, loyalties, and purposes, many of which are natural or transcendent and therefore enduring. Instead, it’s becoming more like eBay, Facebook, a government office, or an industrial process, a setting in which nothing concrete stays the same and nothing that matters much ever changes.

The transformation is progressive, and applies more and more to each succeeding generation. Young people are brought up and made ready for the resulting social setting by formal education, institutional childcare, commercial pop culture, and computer networks. They are taught in a thousand ways to consider the bureaucratic and commercial world the serious part of life, so everyone has to have a career, and progress in it is considered the thing that gives life meaning and weight.

The struggle for career success or survival mostly goes forward in service to enterprises with hundreds or thousands of employees, often under temporary or part-time arrangements that are easily reshuffled or broken off. Slogans like “equal opportunity” make the interchangeability of human resources with similar technical qualifications into a basic social and moral principle. To that end natural distinctions and connections, like those related to sex, and inherited and traditional ones, like those related to cultural and religious community, are debunked and deprived of effect as a matter of fundamental public policy.

The result is that transcendent commitments and basic human connections become divorced from concerns thought serious. In the absence of natural, traditional, or transcendent connections that are thought to matter, public life fragments. Among professionals it devolves into battles among propagandists, policy entrepreneurs, and competing political teams and brands. Among the public at large it dissolves, except at the most local level, into sporadic participation in shifting electronic networks that present fragmentary images assembled into evanescent storylines by Internet memes.

Tweets and hashtags are addictive, but not functional, so the work of making decisions and running things is carried on less by democratic persuasion than by bureaucracy and commerce, and by interests and institutions that are able to act continuously and coherently but avoid the limelight because they lack legitimate authority. Under such circumstances democracy becomes a safety valve for popular discontent, a reality check and warning system for governing institutions, and above all a means of legitimation: whatever the government does, the people should go along with it, because they appointed the decisionmakers and if they don’t like the result they can appoint someone else.

Current theory tells us that all that should be okay. Commercial and neutral bureaucratic arrangements seem to let each of us define his own values and way of life. That is the point of the system: free to be you and me. If you want to buy virtual child pornography you have a constitutional right to do so. Also, such arrangements lend themselves to public supervision, so it’s thought they can be relied on to be rational, just, and effective. You just need to have the right people with the right training, affiliations, and loyalties doing the supervising. Our rulers think that’s happened for the most part: the Supreme Court is staffed solely by graduates of Yale and Harvard Law Schools, the great majority of recent presidential candidates have had similar institutional backgrounds, and it’s very difficult to attain high office without acceptance by news media led by people from the same world. To further prevent the intrusion of disruptive interlopers the highest offices are filled more and more by members of family dynasties, who can be presumed safe.

Under such circumstances it’s thought that all that’s needed for utopia—for the secular equivalent of the Kingdom of God on earth—is for the EU and similar arrangements to perfect themselves in accordance with their principles and become universal.

Systems thought perfect are never so. In practice the realm of freedom modern life offers us isn’t so free. We are social beings who live in a world created by the attitudes and beliefs of others. Not many can follow their own drummer when electronic media penetrate everywhere, we are raised by peer groups, pop culture, and bureaucratic arrangements, and equal opportunity laws require every institution of any size to insist on equal affirmation of all beliefs and ways of life as central to its mission. Under such circumstances how can an independent way of life exist as anything but individual idiosyncrasy understood as such?

Such a state of affairs is a problem not just for Catholicism but for any humane way of life. Career, political correctness, and pop culture don’t make a worthy life, but that’s what young people especially are offered today, and the most obvious alternative is an “alternative” culture that defines itself more by a pose of rejection than by anything positive and real.

But if that’s a problem, what does someone who doesn’t like what’s on offer do about it? Catholics won’t be surprised to hear that the thing most needed for independence from an all-pervasive this-worldly system based on career, consumption, and electronic distraction is a concrete transcendent focus of loyalty: in other words, God.

In a basic sense, of course, that is all we need. Even so, it is hard to orient ourselves toward God without regard to the daily circumstances of life. People say that a saint can thrive in all environments, illumined by joy and transforming those around him by his presence. The ideal, though, is hard to realize. In the Gospels even Jesus didn’t transform many people, and at times seemed downright gloomy. How many can do better? It seems then that the perpetual availability of the way of sanctity isn’t a complete answer to our present situation. While directing ourselves to ultimate concerns, we also need to act on a lower, more concrete, and more specifically social plane.

“Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God, and his justice,” and other goals fall into place. The injunction seems very sensible, but what’s involved in the kingdom and justice of God, and how should we seek them as members of a this-worldly society? That’s the subject of Catholic social teaching, which applies general Catholic principles to social relations to determine what sort of society best helps man toward his natural and supernatural ends.

It’s a difficult and complicated business, so people try to simplify it in various ways. It’s hard to push forward as a whole, so they try to achieve it piecemeal, notably by finding common ground with non-Catholic and often anti-Catholic forces. That is why Catholic bishops lobby legislators with regard to health, employment, the environment, and immigration policy, hoping to bring about a world more worthy of humanity by giving their support to projects designed and led by people who don’t like and don’t understand the Catholic view of man and the world.

Not surprisingly, attempts to forward some goals of Catholic teaching while sidelining goals at odds with other people’s projects often end up defeating Catholic social teaching as a whole. If you establish a comprehensive system of healthcare with secularists in the driver’s seat you’ll get a system that treats abortion as a fundamental good, and eventually one that treats death as a medical treatment and “homophobia” as a mental disorder.

If you try to provide for education and social protection of individual welfare through the present-day state, the effort will be carried out in accordance with the state’s view of how things should be, and you’ll get secularist indoctrination and radical weakening of the family. Do such developments truly forward the natural and transcendent goals of our nature?

With that in mind it seems there’s something wrong with many current efforts to give practical application to Catholic social teaching. It appears from what’s been said that the most important social problem at present in the Western world isn’t healthcare, the environment, employment, or social exclusion. It’s the radical subordination of God and man to what is intended as a system of rational social management that is intended, among other things, to deal with such problems.

To do battle with that evil it seems that we need a rethinking of the practical implications of Catholic social doctrine that keeps ultimate goals more firmly in mind, and views with intense suspicion measures that seem likely to increase the reach of commerce, the state, and supposedly neutral formal expertise at the expense of traditional and natural communities like the family.

Editor’s note: This column first appeared February 23, 2015 on the Catholic World Report website and is reprinted with permission. (Photo credit: AP / Pablo Martinez)

James Kalb


James Kalb is a lawyer, independent scholar, and Catholic convert who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (ISI Books, 2008), and, most recently, Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It (Angelico Press, 2013).

  • 1crappie2

    Some excellent thinking. My only (picky) question would be: what really is “Catholic social doctrine” In lieu of Pope Francis’s calling inequality “evil” (after his meeting with Obama who also called it evil) climate change one of the most vital of world concerns (and a strongly debated hoax) and his call for nations to “distribute (redistribute) wealth instead of individuals through charity, I remain more confused each and every day.

    • John O’Neill


    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      A good starting place is the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church

  • Dick Prudlo

    The Human element of the Church disposed of Catholic Social Teaching with the modernist heretics ascendency after that unnecessary council (who’s name I will no longer speak). They trashed it all. We now have leadership who opposes all things Catholic. And I do not have the answer to where do we go from here?

    Don’t expect Bishop Frank to be much. He is the face of it.

  • BillinJax

    “Not surprisingly, attempts to forward some goals of Catholic teaching while sidelining goals at odds with other people’s projects often end up defeating Catholic social teaching as a whole. If you establish a comprehensive system of healthcare with secularists in the driver’s seat you’ll get a system that treats abortion as a fundamental good, and eventually one that treats death as a medical treatment and “homophobia” as a mental disorder.

    If you try to provide for education and social protection of individual welfare through the present-day state, the effort will be carried out in accordance with the state’s view of how things should be, and you’ll get secularist indoctrination and radical weakening of the family. Do such developments truly forward the natural and transcendent goals of our nature?”

    That’s it in a nutshell. Can’t be denied. Plain and simple. ….But who is listening? Most are glued to the tube or tied to and lead by their self attached modern technology.

  • BillinJax

    The Church… intends to continue to raise her voice in defense of mankind, even when policies of States and the majority of public opinion moves in the opposite direction. Truth, indeed, draws strength from itself and not from the amount of consent it arouses. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Vatican, March 20, 2006

  • russell snow

    My question is how do we discern God’s will and purposes under these conditions which we really cannot change. The cultural elites have created a system which seems destined to play its way out, and, as with all totalitarian systems, collapse of its own weight. We live in a dark and cold age, and age that fosters dehumanization and violence. It is, however, not an age without faith, hope, and charity. There are many ways that followers of Jesus Christ, despite our tragic divisions, are coming together to keep our faith in him alive and many signs that God is working, especially in the young to renew the Church, and to draw people to people to Him. There is natural law which cannot be ignored or denied and God has written the law of love on every human heart. Yes, people can become so dehumanized by totalitarian systems that they can participate in the most horrible and unthinkable crimes as they did in the concentration camps, but even in the camps and gulags of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, there were acts of charity and compassion. Why did God permit such horrors? We do not know. He is God and we are not. Salvation, after all, is not a matter of knowledge, but of Grace and faith in Jesus Christ. All we can do is try to live our lives according to the Gospel and hope for the best, knowing that most of us are sinners doing the best we can. This article helps us to understand the conditions under which we must try to live out or faith, but knowledge of these conditions must never be an occasion to undermine our faith in God’s plans and purposes, even when we cannot see or understand them.

  • Keith Cameron

    I’m wary of a secular government that shifts with the changing winds. But, I’m terrified of a Church that would follow the same twisted path.

    • Matthew

      If the Church follows the same twisted path as our secular government, then it’s not the One True Church.

      • Paddy

        You can’t sleep with Marxist dogs the way the Church does, for the 30 pieces of silver, and not get fleas…or worse.

    • TX_Catholic

      “A Catholic knows that if the Church married the mood of any age in which it lived, it would be a widow in the next age.” –Ven. Fulton J. Sheen

  • richardfossey

    This is a provocative article. I agree completely with Mr. Kalb. And my answer to the question of how should we live in this postmodern, secular environment is that we should try to imitate Dorothy Day and we should all read what she wrote.

    • crimsoncat

      The same Dorothy Day that was a registered Communist, had an abortion, and lived with various men? Nice example, Richard

      • richardfossey

        I’ve read a lot about Dorothy Day, including her semi-autobiographical novel about her abortion. Dorothy was not a communist after she became Catholic. And she was celibate after she became Catholic. Dorothy is the perfect saint for our time. She was a wounded. broken person before she came into the Church, and her life was transformed by her Catholic faith. Cardinal Dolan is in favor of Dorothy’s canonization, and Cardinal Dolan is no softie.

        I recommend that people who want to know more about Dorothy read Loaves and Fishes. I think this a better introduction to her saintliness than The Long Loneliness, which is her memoirs.

        • “Cardinal Dolan is no softie.”

          Surely you jest.

          • jacobum

            Makes you want to die laughing Not!

        • Crisiseditor

          Dorothy Day is a complicated figure. But worth studying. Here is a piece we published that may surprise all sides:

        • jacobum

          “Cardinal Dolan is no softie”

          Really? How do you explain his disaster led St Patty’s Day Parade this past Tuesday? Or was that a Giant Leprechaun with a red beanie leading the parade?

          • Paddy

            A leprechaun would have a greater sense of decency than the cupcake eater at large.

        • Dolan is a dolt.

  • Yes, we are called to work in society toward the objective good for man, which can include the many goods and needs that are possible for and due to mankind. We are to seek “social justice.” But we would be foolish to think that we will win against The City of Man, with the truth and righteousness of The City of God, by any way except the Way of Christ – which is the Cross.

    We may be very, very close to needing to really understand this teaching of the Church, briefly given in the (universal) Catechism:

    The Church’s ultimate trial

    675 Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.[Cf. Lk 18:8; Mt 24:12] …The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.[Cf. 2 Th 2:4-12; I Th 5:2-3; 2 Jn 7; I Jn 2:18, 22]

    676 The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgement. ….

    677 The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover, when she will follow her Lord in his death and Resurrection.[Cf. Rev 19:1-9] The kingdom will be fulfilled, then, not by a historic triumph of the Church through a progressive ascendancy, but only by God’s victory over the final unleashing of evil, which will cause his Bride to come down from heaven…..

    We can and should seek to bring His Kingdom here and now! But prudently, and realistically realizing that we will not completely succeed – not on this side of His Cross.

  • JP

    The long held Progressive dream of a “partnership” between the public and private has arrived. The end result is the Administrative State. I am reminded of a Reuters article I read last month in which some directorate or department within HHS wishes to implement a plan in which employers would be mandated to collect and manage personal “well being” metrics on their employees. This is all part of a federal plan to reduce incidence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease etc… Currently, these proposed programs are in the planning stages. Simply put, every employed American will be forced to participate in this program as a condition of employment. The employer will have to hire professional dieticians and health experts on their own dime or be subject to federal prosecution. Of course many people think the entire is great. The government is just watching out for us, as we are doing such a lousy job ourselves. The article didn’t say what the ramifications for the employees would be if an employee didn’t lose weight, or if his/her cholesterol didn’t improve. What if the supervisor caught one of his employees who is on say a weight loss program at the Golden Corral. What if the employee didn’t stop smoking or didn’t lose weight? And nothing was said about “social diseases”. If “life-style choices” are to be discouraged for health reasons, what about Swingers, people who “hook-up” on a regular basis, or gays? STDs cost this nation over $100 billion per year.

    The Church is knee deep in this partnership. There are big bucks to be had, as well as the pleasure many of our Church leaders enjoy by being so plugged-in to the power structure. Catholic “Social Doctrine”, to no ones surprise, mirrors Progressive philosophy concerning the melding of public and private interests. This “gleishaltung” or coordination of public and private activity co-opts private activity and eventually will supplant it. All recent Popes have had nothing but positive things concerning this arrangement. Perhaps, because we’re Americans we have a deep seated mistrust of government (this unfortunately is changing). This mistrust is a healthy thing, but runs counter to political and social thought in Asia and Europe. There is a conflict approaching the Church which will test our leaders. Either they stay true to Christ or they join the government in not only supplanting our rights, but abandoning the Faith.

    • “The long held Progressive dream of a “partnership” between the public and private has arrived. ”

      Another word is fascism.

      “I am reminded of a Reuters article I read last month in which some directorate or department within HHS wishes to implement a plan in which employers would be mandated to collect and manage personal “well being” metrics on their employees. This is all part of a federal plan to reduce incidence of obesity, diabetes, heart disease etc… ”

      Of course. Your healthcare is now an expense to the government, and they aren’t looking to pay for chronic diseases. If they can’t persuade you to reduce their exposure, they’ll force you to do it.

    • Michael Paterson-Seymour

      “All recent Popes have had nothing but positive things concerning this arrangement”

      Bl Paul VI warned against its possible abuse in Populorum Progressio (1967) – “Individual initiative alone and the interplay of competition will not ensure satisfactory development. We cannot proceed to increase the wealth and power of the rich while we entrench the needy in their poverty and add to the woes of the oppressed. Organized programs are necessary for “directing, stimulating, coordinating, supplying and integrating” the work of individuals and intermediary organizations.

      It is for the public authorities to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used in fulfilling them; and it is also their task to stimulate the efforts of those involved in this common activity. But they must also see to it that private initiative and intermediary organizations are involved in this work. In this way they will avoid total collectivization and the dangers of a planned economy which might threaten human liberty and obstruct the exercise of man’s basic human rights.”

      • :It is for the public authorities to establish and lay down the desired goals, the plans to be followed, and the methods to be used in fulfilling them; and it is also their task to stimulate the efforts of those involved in this common activity.”

        Those might be the singularly worst words ever committed to paper by a Pope. First, it’s incomplete? Goals? Goals for what? In the years since that has been written we’ve had “public authorities” identify “goals” and “methods to be used in fulfilling them” over and over again.

        Public authorities have committed mass murder and genocide, erected gulags and concentration camps, countenanced the murder of millions of unborn, assaulted marriage, and washed the world in corruption and unpayable debt.

        Elections, appointments and coronations do not remove the stain of original sin. On the contrary, politics is to the person with libido dominandi what a tavern is to a drunkard- a place to satisfy their urges in a socially acceptable fashion.

        We see it now in action. Obama (public authority) had a desired goal, and used whatever means possible as a method, and he stimulates the efforts of those involved through coercion. The HHS mandate is the illegitimate child of those words.

        Public authorities have no great foresight or competence in any activity; they are often wedded to the obvious and the conspicuous, while causing hidden and inconspicuous harm.

        • Michael Paterson-Seymour

          In a divided world, unfortunately, different public authorities will be tempted to pursue different goals. Bl Paul Vi was aware of this and sought to address it: “Such international collaboration among the nations of the world certainly calls for institutions that will promote, coordinate and direct it, until a new juridical order is firmly established and fully ratified. We give willing and wholehearted support to those public organizations that have already joined in promoting the development of nations, and We ardently hope that they will enjoy ever growing authority. As We told the United Nations General Assembly in New York: “Your vocation is to bring not just some peoples but all peoples together as brothers. . . Who can fail to see the need and importance of thus gradually coming to the establishment of a world authority capable of taking effective action on the juridical and political planes?”

          Without a single guiding will, the yearnings of humankind for development will be forever impeded.

          • Divergent goals are not the problem with this phrase.
            There are three problems with this phrase.
            1.) The first is the wording. “Public authorities” are not defined, nor are the object of the goals they establish. There’s no reference to any limits on the methods employed, nor any mention for recourse by the affected.
            2.) The second is the assumption that “public authorities” have omniscience, or at least vastly superior knowledge than any other actor or institution in society, and they can be trusted to act with benevolence and incorruptibility. I think most people know that most government officials do not get a benevolence booster shot upon taking office, and politics is fraught with corruption. However most people here the word “government expert” and believe such a thing exists. The fact is that knowledge of things DECREASES with distance and disinvolvement-which is why we have a principle of subsidiarity.

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              As the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church explains (186) “all societies of a superior order must adopt attitudes of help (“subsidium”) — therefore of support, promotion, development — with respect to lower-order societies.”

              There is nothing in Populorum Progressio that conflicts with this.

              1) “Public authorities” is employed in contrast to “individual initiative… and the interplay of competition,” and the encyclical is addressing economic development, from which the meaning of these phrases can be deduced.

              2) There is no assumption that “’public authorities’ have omniscience, or at least vastly superior knowledge than any other actor or institution in society, and they can be trusted to act with benevolence and incorruptibility…” Rather, there is the recognition that only they can unite their peoples in the common struggle and effectively discipline the recalcitrant. An army led by indifferent generals can achieve more than a disorganized rabble.

              • Lovely yell it to the hundreds of million slaughtered to safeguard us against disorganization. Counselor, your statophilia is showing again

              • Jacqueleen

                That applies to the world that was….or the world as it should be. We live in a much different world now…..RUN BY GOG & MAGOG.

  • Mongo

    “Collaboration with Secularists Undermines Catholic Social Goals”

    How true. What Pope Francis did re obama was despicable. Not a public word to be heard from him about obama’s murderous abortion intent. Here the Pope rightly excoriates the mafia, then more or less simultaneously publicly kisses obama’s a__, making no public effort whatever to correct his murderous behavior.

    • Scott W.

      You would need to be more specific because as far as I know, the HF has merely received Obama diplomatically. If every leader could expect a chastening by the pope on a diplomatic visit, they’d all just stop coming, which isn’t productive. There is already a movement afoot by anti-Catholics to bounce the Holy See from the UN (and they are not even a member state, but a permanent observer) and treat the Church as a non-entity. No need to add fuel.

      • Mongo

        If that’s your thinking there’s no point in replying. It’d accomplish nothing.

        • Scott W.

          I’d like to know what is wrong in my thinking. Leaders of countries visit the Holy See not as individuals representing themselves, but as representing countries usually with large numbers of Catholics in them. So it is both right and and just to receive those representatives in a spirit of goodwill.

          • James Stagg

            Scott, I think Mongo is talking about the “behind the scenes” collaboration between Pope Francis and Obama over Cuba……a decidedly incautious move, both for the Church, for the US, and for democracy. As usual with Obama’s deals, he gave away the store and accomplished nothing. Big deal; now comedians and other bigmouths can visit Cuba and tell us what a paradise it really (?) is.

            We may be in for another round of a-kissing when the encyclical on the climate is published.

            • Jacqueleen

              Pope Francis received the credit for the Cuban negotiations, but in truth it was the Vatican, Secretary of State, Pietro Cardinal Paralin who masterminded the negotiations as he is doing in other parts of the world, namely, the Middle East…Watch out for this Cardinal!

    • jacobum

      Ya think it might?. Secularism is an absence of God in reality. It’s an “ism” of the Godless and the Evil one who is the Underminer- In-Chief. Not to worry…whats needed in more denial and “dialogue”

  • thebigdog

    Modernity’s religion of Leftism has usurped Christian authority and replaced social justice with federal mercy… there is nothing ‘just” about creating a welfare state on the foundation of broken homes.

  • prince

    I am catholic but i have no social goals.I help those in need if i can, but i do not give to charities. I don`t vote, i do not participate in political life. Creating a better society does not interests me.

    Every civilization has to end and i think the end has come to this one. at least i hope.

  • Watosh

    Most Catholics seem to believe or take for granted like Fr. Neuhaus, that liberal democracy and Catholicism are compatible. This belief of Fr. Neuhaus is most appealing as liberal democracy is our official secular religion and very popular as an American invention. It is much pleasanter to go along with the idea that liberal democracy and Catholicism are compatible than to question this assumption as there seems to be no practical alternative to this assumption. Nevertheless, Mr. Kalb seeks to ask Catholics to reflect more deeply on this issue, particularly in this quest for unity among Christians, and I believe it is important that we do reflect on this issue as It contains traps for the unwary.

    • bonaventure

      Richard John Neuhaus believed that the Catholic Church is compatible with the American model of constitutional republic. But destroy the U.S. Constitution, and you have a free shot at the Church.

      • Watosh

        Well I am not sure of that. I do realize that the U.S. Constitution does provide for some protection for the Church, and if the absence of the U.S. constitution is accompanied by mob rule, like what happened during the French Revolution the enemies of the church would have a free shot, in that case yes, but I am concerned that even if the U.S. Constitution does provide some protection, its gradual and inevitable encroachment and its replacing the Christian religion with worship of the State, has as we have seen has led to an adulteration of our religion by secular, liberal principles.

        • bonaventure

          I believe that the encroachment you mention is not the encroachment of the U.S. Constitution on religious freedom, but rather the encroachment of social engineers on the U.S. Constitution, and therefore by extension on religious freedom — which is the social engineers’ ultimate objective.

          • Watosh

            Well I don’t believe I said, at least I did not mean to say or give the impression that the U.S. Constitution encroached on anything, people encroach, but I tried to point out that declaring that a secular democracy is the ideal, and holding this as a sacred belief, leads to the dethronement of the Catholic religion and replacing it with the religion of secular democracy. There is a basic conflict here, and the U.S. Constitution, which certainly condones the idea of the secular state will permit your social engineers to have their way as they serve the secularity of the state.

            • JGradGus

              You are going to have to provide some proof that “the idea of “religious freedom” originated as an anti-Catholic measure,” since Maryland, one of the original 13 colonies was predominantly Catholic. Also, the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not a secular democracy. And as John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

              • Watosh

                Religious freedom did not originate with the framers of the Constitution, it was hatched during the Enlightenment and the framers watched on to it. It does have the appeal in a diverse set of religions of reducing tensions.

                I have seen a source I trusted state that religious freedom was aimed at the Catholic Faith. Off hand I don’t have a ready reference for this. You can assume this is not true, but what if this is true? wouldn’t that interest you enough to look into this? I bring it up in case you are interested, if you do care to check it out, fine. If you don’t like to believe this, or have other things to do, fine with me.

                I have had some challenge me to cite the source of something I say. On the occasions that I can readily recall the source and have cited the source, then I am told the source was in error. You don’t know me, so you don’t know if you can trust my memory, I understand. Lots of people say lots of things. Again I bring this up for what you feel it is worth. The Catholic Church which held sway in a number of countries in the distant past, officially has stated that in a predominately Catholic country Protestants and other heretical or false religions should not be given complete freedom. They could practice their religion, they did not have to convert, but their religion did not have freedom to advertise and spread. So given this history, the notion that religious freedom originated among reactionary anti-Catholic thinkers of the enlightenment is not so far fetched.

                This is why the documents on religious freedom emanating from Vatican II caused a number of Catholics to question if, in giving some approval of religious freedom, it didn’t represent a change in Catholic thinking. Catholic thinking always held that the Church “tolerated” religious freedom in a country having many different religions since this promoted the good for that society, but never felt it was proper for countries largely Catholic.

                The Catholicity of Maryland has been a little exaggerated. It began as a haven for Catholics, but the Protestants restricted Catholic access and influence somewhat shortly after.

            • bonaventure

              Now to attest to my claim that the State has become a religion, we see how strongly people believe in the State.

              We agree on that 100%. I would add, however, that Statism as a religion is not new, and not particular to the West. For example, Islamism is a religious Statism even more than the worst Statism that may have ever existed in the West.

              • Watosh

                Oh yes, the Roman Empire had a State Religion. Interestingly the Islamic States like Iraq under Saddam Hussein, Libya under Gaddafi, and Syria under Assad, were somewhat secular in nature, though of course Islam was the favored religion. Under Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Assiz was n Iraqi Catholic and he later was appointed one of Iraq’s vice presidents. Today, after our invasion, it is not healthy to be an Iraqi Catholic and they had lived in Iraq since the time of Christ. And these are the states that we either brought down or or bringing down in the case of Syria, to be replaced by Islamic governments. Possibly the recent resurgence of violent Islamic societies and Islamic theocracies represents an reaction against Western interference.

        • So when are you leaving?

          • Watosh

            Bullying seems to attract some, taunting at sports events is institutionalized, our diplomacy is based on bullying, many Americans seem obsessed with being number one in everything, so it is little wonder that it is widespread where people can deliver all kinds of insults hiding behind the mask of anonymity. But I am sure their mothers are proud of them.

            • Bullying my backside.. there isn’t a topic on here that doesn’t result in you launching some indictment of America. We all got it already. If it’s so bad,leave.

              • Watosh

                I served on active duty in the Air force from 1952-1959.

                One criticism I have is that some Americans have made their country an object of worship, and they react to criticism of America like a Moslem reacts to criticism of the prophet. And I cite your comments as example of this misplaced faith.

                As Christ has said, “Only God is good,” which would seem to mean that know country directed by fallible humans is beyond criticism. As the parent who never corrects a child is doing that child no favors, a person who blindly supports his country. like some have at times in other countries, is not doing his country any favors.

                I want my country to do the moral thing, I want to be proud of my country for good reason, not simply because my country is my country and I need to feel it is the best possible country so i can feel superior.

                Now my friend, you can thank me for my service, for keeping this country and your precious backside safe from Soviet communist aggression.

                • I’ll thank you with the purchase of a one-way ticket to wherever you wish to go.

                  • Watosh

                    Now I am a Catholic, and as Sigrid Undset said upon her conversion, becoming a Catholic is not just changing ones religion, it is changing one’s whole life style. Now I am human and sometimes I forget and make unkind remarks, but I do make some effort to follow Christ’s teaching, including the beatitudes. I mean after all that is what a catholic is supposed to do.

                    Now when I was in my teens and we were attacked by two powerful countries and learned that the Japanese had tortured Americans I condemned that behavior by the Japanese. Later when Stalin conducted one of his periodic purges of top commissars and then had a show trial in which these commissars duly confessed to plotting against Stalin, it was widely acknowledge these confessions were obtained by torture. I felt that this showed the evil of their government.

                    So when I learned that we were using torture, since I condemned the use of torture by the Japanese and the Russian Communists, I felt I had to condemn our use of torture. Otherwise I might be guilty of condemning torture or excusing torture, not on the basis of the action, but on the basis of who did the torturing. I also read the testimony of expert professional interrogators who categorically said torture was not effective in obtaining good intelligence.

                    Now many claim that torture produced information, actionable intelligence I believe is the phrase used, but in public testimony government officials were forced to confess this was extremely rare. Many said what we did wasn’t torture. But, in this case thinking torture wrong is something that at the very least was a reasonable conclusion.

                    Now I hold that torture is wrong, and that we tortured a lot of folks, as someone rather high up in our government once flippantly admitted. We signed treaties, which become part of American law, in which we agreed to outlaw the use of torture and we solemnly promised we would prosecute any American that tortured. My Church holds that torture is wrong.

                    One reason advanced to justify torture is that it was done to protect American lives. That torture is effective in protecting American lives is very questionable. But it is too easy to use this rational to justify ignoring any moral prohibition.

                    Given these reasons do you feel that I am a lousy American for criticizing our government for resorting to torture and for not prosecuting those who were known to have tortured. My church also teaches that one way a person participates in a sin is by “silence.” So you see, as a sincere, practicing Catholic I object to our use of torture?

                    Now if a person sees something wrong, shouldn’t they try to correct this wrong? Is that being disloyal?

                    You feel I should leave this country if I don’t like something. I was born here, this is my land just as much ass it is yours isn’t it? Should George Washington have left the American colonies because he didn’t like what King George III was doing?

                    I am merely trying to argue that being critical of something my country is doing does not mean I should be exiled nor is it a reason for me to go into exile. I am trying to be logical and reasonable about this, and to not engage in name calling.

                    I see soldiers fighting and dying ostensibly to protect my freedoms. Yet the more they fight and die for my freedom I notice the less freedom I have, A lot of freedoms Americans enjoyed in the 1950’s are gone today. I know, I lived during the “50’s.

                    A former producer of the TV news program “60 minutes,” Charles Lewis recently wrote a book titled “935 Lies.” He is no crackpot, but a respected investigative journalist, who documents 935 lies that our government and military have used in the past. Should he leave the country for this. I say he is trying to wake up the country something akin to what Paul Revere did.

                    Have you read the poem “Ozymandias” by Shelley. Pride is universally recognized as leading to a fall. When we boast of “American Exceptionalism” we are saying that all other countries are not exceptional. When we say “America is the indispensable Country” we are saying all other countries are expendable.

                    So I am trying to give you some reasons for my comments as I feel you may misunderstand my intentions, and I am making every effort to avoid engaging in personalities or personal attacks in keeping with my being a Catholic. A Catholic is one whose behavior is constrained by Catholic moral teaching. Catholics believe in turning the other cheek, something I try to keep in mind but have sometimes forgotten and gave in to temptation. Even so I may fail to reach you, but I did try.

                    • Wow, you are exceptionally windy and you read much into little.

                      I don’t care whether you are patriotic or not, because everybody has to make a decision whether their nation is good bad or indifferent.

                      What is clear is that you do believe in a form of “American Exceptionalism” (a term I don’t use) -just your version is that the United States is that it is the ne plus ultra evil.
                      You are entitled to your viewpoint, even if it is often guided by ignorance and disingenuousness. A few days ago, you claimed the framers were “progressive”-a word that has a distinct historical meaning-and when I pointed out it was a political movement of the 19th century that couldn’t possibly have affected me of the 18th, you tried to expand the term “progressive” to a nebulous term.
                      Likewise, you attempted to assert a falsehood that the framers were mostly deists-which is not true-even dead men are entitled to an honest assessment of their lives-so calling them desists (outside the handful that were) is a personal attack.

                      It’s almost hilarious to see your screed write “Pride is universally recognized as leading to a fall.” and then write “my” Church and then assume yourself to be some moral authority in writing “I may fail to reach you, but I did try.”
                      You want to demonstrate your grievances with words? Words are cheap. The world is full of nominal Christians that claim to be righteous because they hold or articulate some idea or conviction. Act on your convictions. Renounce your citizenship, and emigrate to whatever place is agreeable to you-and will have you.

                    • Watosh

                      The left uses the term “progressive” to describe their movement today my friend. I suppose if someone said to you so and so was gay, you would not understand what they were trying to tell you, when the point you should consider rather than the etymology of the word “gay,” is, is it true or not what that person alleges about the persons orientation.

                      I have engaged in arguments where I have jokingly kidded around and so have they, it was part of the intellectual play, but you my friend say things to intentionally wound. Moreover it appears to be your intention to drive me out of participation. No one likes to be called an idiot, or stupid, and you will nit-pick any statement I may make. You have frequently told me to get out of the discussions of “Crisis” articles, and have rudely asked me to leave completely. It does appear you, don’t merely disagree with everything I say, you want me out, you want my voice silenced. One wonders just where you are coming from, there are interests that seek to control the internet by having agents monitor discussions and then to silence those who are felt to represent views other than those of these interests.

                      And you are no average commenter, your phraseology indicates you are a cut above most all of the relative amateurs who just like to put in their two cents. You do sound like a hired gun type. I could be wrong, but why then would you be so vicious when dealing with certain comments?

                      Well it is your life to create as you wish. I have done my best to politely reason with you. It appears you, for some sinister reason, want to do away with me, atlas verbally. As we Catholics recognize, God gives everyone free will to write their own ticket..

                    • papagan

                      Mr. “destoyer man,” as another person has called him, seems thoroughly unable, at least for any extended period of time, to avoid indulging in offensive ad hominem rhetoric. Evidently he’s an extraordinarily irascible individual carrying some very heavy personal baggage. Don’t allow him to scare you away. Keep fighting the good fight!

      • So did millions of immigrants. My great grandfather had seven children to feed, which was accomplished through crawling into a black hole with a pick and shovel, until recurrent pulmonary problems forced him out. He also had a garden, a cow and chickens. He still found time to help build a Church which for three quarters of a century and lived long enough to see that it was well worth his while to leave his homeland, as it was trampled under the Nazi and Soviet jackboots for decades.

        • Rich C.

          Sounds like some ignorant bohunk.

          • Who are you to judge?

  • jacobum

    To follow Mt 6:33 requires authentic humility and holiness. Unfortunately, very few prelates could be accused, let alone convicted, of both.

  • papagan

    I wonder whether collaboration between traditional conservatives and libertarians undermines anyone’s commitment to the true and the good. The City of God and the City of Man must co-exist in this transitory world. Finding truly common ground isn’t a bad idea. On the contrary, it’s prudent. Those who collaborate may also respectfully disagree amongst themselves and challenge each other on one moral issue or another. Now, if one is talking about collaborating with Nazi officials in charge of a concentration (death) camp, or collaborating with abortionists within the confines of an abortion mill, collaboration becomes a good deal more difficult if not impossible!

    In any event, there is also an important distinction between formal and material cooperation with evil. Formal cooperation with evil is always wrong, of course.

    • Jacqueleen

      Thus, the birth of the erroneous deal: Give us universal healthcare and we will give you amnesty! Instead the clergy got a slap in the face.

      • papagan

        “Thus, the birth of the erroneous deal: Give us universal healthcare and we will give you amnesty! Instead the clergy got a slap in the face.”

        Was it your intention to suggest that collaborating with those with whom one disagrees on one or another important issue is never a legitimate moral option?

        • Jacqueleen

          No….I’m saying that there are other options at the disposal of so-called leaders of the world and the church….They often times make deals….and if you don’t believe this, you are not as smart as you think you are. You give me this…and I will give you that. It does not matter if it goes against the teachings of the Catholic Church….it is called corruption on a high level.

          • papagan

            “No….I’m saying that there are other options at the disposal of so-called leaders of the world and the church….They often times make deals…”

            As long as there is no formal cooperation with evil, is collaborating with persons with whom one disagrees on one or another important ethical issue a legitimate moral option?

            • Jacqueleen

              Show me a situation in these evil times where this philosophy will work. . It appears that everyone has a hidden agenda, for instance, Iran, Syria, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Russia, including the USA evil administration, etc. The evil agenda makes it impossible to come to a mutual agreement or understanding. Then, when you know that a person or persons lie, why would you bother to collaborate? Only a fool would trust a liar.

              • papagan

                “Then, when you know that a person or persons lie, why would you bother to collaborate? Only a fool would trust a liar.”

                It isn’t about trusting known liars; it’s about the City of God and the City of Man co-existing in this world until the end of time, and building up the kingdom of God prior to the final conflagration. It seems better to avoid hastening the end of the world by not declaring bloody war, but if and when the City of Man forces the issue, then the end will surely come.

                • Jacqueleen

                  You made no mention of the City of Satan….

      • Rich C.

        Better than a slap on the ass.

  • M.J.A.

    Let us hope that the Catholic grandmother of Obama and the family lines are praying for him, for the sake of the country , that any respect for the God appointed Head of His Kingdom here , in matters of promoting similar values between neighboring nations can be occasions of divine blessings, fro mercy , to undo the evils , that both Castro and Obama have found the Father’s love , in and through the Holy Father – enough yeast , to make the rising of the good possible , may be even a more solidly Catholic regime possible , next time !

    • Jacqueleen

      We do not know much of anything about Obama, but from what is available, his white grand mother was a Communist/Atheist not a Catholic and his supposed grandmother from Kenya’s religion is unknown. Where did you find out about a Catholic Grandmother?

  • Johnny Rango

    I’m a Catholic, reasonably well read, and reasonably intelligent (member of Phi Beta Kappa). And baffled. I simply do not understand what the writer is trying to say in his essay.

    His summation: “To do battle with that evil [secularist indoctrination?] it seems that we need a rethinking of the practical implications of Catholic social doctrine that keeps ultimate goals more firmly in mind, and views with intense suspicion measures that seem likely to increase the reach of commerce, the state, and supposedly neutral formal expertise at the expense of traditional and natural communities like the family.”

    I have no idea what all that means in practical terms. Maybe what he’s talking about is obvious to most readers of Crisis. Perhaps a couple of “for instances” where he describes applying his philosophy to real world events would probably have helped make this essay less opaque to me.

    • “That evil” is the “the most important social problem” in the previous paragraph. “The practical implications of Catholic social doctrine” that need rethinking are touched on in the three paragraphs preceding that. And the stuff that we don’t want to forward is described in the first half dozen paragraphs.

      • Johnny Rango

        I read your essay once again. I still find it extremely vague.

        • Augustus

          Mr. Kalb is not a journalist but a public intellectual. He is dealing with social problems at an elevated level. In order to appreciate his style, it is helpful to have some philosophical training. Furthermore, Mr. Kalb’s perspective–like that of the Church–is countercultural. What he is saying is decidedly not what you would hear in a college classroom or in the mainstream media. For those who are new to his perspective, a full appreciation requires some thought and meditation. But really, not that much. We are talking, essentially, about a modern secular culture that rejects Christian values. But this culture is more pervasive than obvious manifestations like the ACLU or People for the American Way. The hostility is widespread and subtle. Mr. Kalb is pointing out the many current cultural trends that run counter to Christian ideals. Most people will think they are neutral but this is not so. Some who encounter his cultural criticism for the first time may need a more detailed description of the practical manifestations of the secular mindset that now governs our lives.

          • Johnny Rango

            I think I’m beginning to understand. So when the moving forces behind Catholic social doctrine collaborate with secular government, secular government always ends up getting the upper hand, and the result is a policy that further secularizes culture. I can see how some Catholics would see things this way (not sure that I completely do however).

            In any case, if that’s a fair description of the problem, what would possibly be the solution? It would seem to me that if there were no attempts at collaboration, then the results (from a Christian perspective) would be even worse. And if there is a third way…I can’t imagine what it would be.

            • We should live by Catholic principle, and preach the Word (also as it applies to society) in season and out of season. The understandings that dominate public discussion are extremely narrow and exclude concerns fundamental to a good life. The biggest contribution we can make is broaden them. That would change the world, but it won’t happen if we obfuscate principle.

              In addition, of course, we should studiously defend our ability to live as Catholics, for example to have educational, healthcare, etc. institutions run in accordance with Catholic principle. And contribute to the public good any legitimate way open to us.

            • “I think I’m beginning to understand. So when the moving forces behind Catholic social doctrine collaborate with secular government, secular government always ends up getting the upper hand, and the result is a policy that further secularizes culture. I can see how some Catholics would see things this way (not sure that I completely do however).”

              Have you ever heard the expression “he who has the gold, makes the rules”? Look at the religious organizations that accept government money (CRS, in another article on Crisis) and how they seemto resemble “just another NGO”.

              It’s even worse, elsewhere. I think it’s no accident that the Cardinals Marx and Kasper hail from a country where they get their most of their support from government bursars and not the pews.

    • Rich C.

      College boy.

  • Jacqueleen

    We are living in Spiritual Warfare and it looks like Satan is winning the battle. (We know who wins in the end!) Meanwhile, the clergy of the Catholic Church just don’t get it, not even after all of the damage done by the liberal, progressive Bishops who misinterpreted, purposefully the intentions of Vatican II Documents. Then, there is Timothy Cardinal Dolan who did nothing when NY voted on same sex marriage and his retort was, “I had a conversation with Governor Cuomo and he assured me that it would never pass!” He dialogued with Satan and believed the lies. We live in a different world, now. Satan is everywhere. The clergy cannot dialogue with Satan or any member of his army, the Magog, if you will. They will never win. Let me remind you that we are not fighting flesh and blood, but rather highly intelligent supernatural beings with greater vision into the future, i.e., Satan and his army of fallen angels and his possessed humans. Our Lord conquered Satan during those 40 days in the wilderness with Scripture and not with a debate.

    We do not need to read about what is….We already know all that. We need to hear that the Clergy will stand up for the Word of God and will join us without fear and partake in gatherings to let our voices be heard. Those out to destroy the church are powerful and their voices are loud. We must be louder and gathered in numbers in prayer…St. Pope John Paul II comes to mind when he went to Poland and stood in the field with a huge cross and a crowd to celebrate Mass in spite of the Communists coming down on the church. Where is the courage and truth in the Clergy, today? Only a few have this virtue, for example, Raymond Cardinal Burke, Cardinal Muller and Cardinal Brandmuller and Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco. What about all of the others? Instead, they remain silent, complacent or in the case of the Pope, attempt to dialogue with Satan’s army.

    What about the Pope dialoguing with Obama and expecting a change of heart? Obama will have the last laugh as he did with Obamacare and doing away with Religious Freedoms. WE CANNOT DIALOGUE WITH SATAN OR HIS ARMY!!!!!!! PRAY, RALLY, PRAY HARDER, INSTEAD! COME, LORD JESUS, COME.