This post by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf inspired a lively discussion with some erudite comments. One reader suggested that the next president, if sufficiently conservative, could head off the persecution that seems to be barreling towards us at breakneck speed. To that idea, a fellow named Dennis Martin responded:
“No president can change the trajectory. The bureaucracy can destroy any president it sets out to destroy. Even if a incredibly gifted president-leader managed to move reform legislation through Congress, the fundamentally lawless mentality of a rising majority of the culture would do a ‘non serviam’.
The Department of Justice is now loaded with radical civil service appointees who cannot be removed because of civil service protection. The federal appeals courts are loaded similarly because the Democrats politicized judicial appointments 30 years ago (Bork), denied George Bush many of his appointments, and then railroaded many of Obama’s during the last Congress. Beyond that the law schools are hopelessly politicized. The chatterati, the intellectuals, the journalists, the financial sector–all the movers and shakers are now post-Christian, deeply-contraceptive, deeply anti-nature and thus deeply lawless. They don’t realize it but they have no god but Power.
The problem is far beyond what even the most gifted single leader can address. We have a culture that is anti-culture, that hates law itself, hates nature itself. No, not everyone is like that but the elites of the culture and, in a curious but really not surprising way, also the hoi polloi in the ‘just gimme mine and leave me alone’ segments of the culture, are like that now.
Nature is real and powerful and in the end will reassert Herself as the truth from the Creator. Human nature, divine nature, natural law cannot be buried for ever. But they can be buried for the lifetimes of one or more generations–until the prosperity and comfort built up over centuries is finally dissipated and brutal scramble for survival sets in. The truths of Caritas and Creator will eventually be rediscovered, in desperation and calamity at the bottom. But not before much evil and bloodshed has been visited upon this and other lands.”
Absent a miracle from heaven on a grand scale, I have to agree with Mr. Martin. All is masterfully arranged. Everything is now in place, including a relentless and ubiquitous propaganda infrastructure. And while many Americans are still kindasorta sympathetic to Christian morality, insofar as it fits their favorite political narrative, that sympathy is hopelessly soft and easily swayed by the emotional manipulation of the Left. Not that “conservatives” don’t also resort to emotional manipulation, but grown-ups always fail when they try to be cool. When it comes to the same-sex “marriage” issue, the sob stories of the Left are more persuasive for a couple of reasons – first, most Americans accept Liberalism’s flawed assumptions about reality; and second, most Americans place a high premium on their own sexual freedom.
It seems ridiculous and surreal that something as marginal as homosexuality would trigger the demise of a great civilization. In 500 years, if this poor earth is still around, archaeologists and historians will be scratching their heads at this one.
Rorate Caeli has an excellent post up today – “Truth be told: The Traditional Catholic position on the economy is not Libertarian”.
“Very few indeed have been making the case, a case that is true, that the positions stated by Pope Francis on economic and social matters are much closer to the Traditional Catholic position on the economy and the State than not. Indeed, it can be said unhesitatingly that this is one area in which the Pope will find mostly allies in Traditional Catholics. They know by heart, also as victims of injustice (including within the Church), that the doctrine of the Church regarding individual persons, society and economic relations, and individuals faced with government, is one which privileges ‘justice’ as its foundational aspect.”
The late Christopher Dawson’s essay “Catholicism and the Bourgeois Mind” is a compelling polemic. Most of us have no sense of what a non-commercial society might look like. There are vestiges here and there – faint echoes in places known to the world as cultural “backwaters” – but we can scarcely imagine a society that is not dominated by commercial or economic concerns. Having first defeated Christianity and then Marxism, the commercial ethic of the “bourgeois” is now ubiquitous and triumphant. Dawson argues sharply that Christianity and “bourgeois” values are utterly incompatible:
… it is obvious that the Christian ethos is essentially antibourgeois, since it is an ethos of love. This is particularly obvious in the case of St. Francis and the mediaeval mystics, who appropriated to their use the phraseology of mediaeval erotic poetry and used the antibourgeois concepts of the chivalrous class-consciousness, such as “adel,” “noble,” and “gentile,” in order to define the spiritual character of the true mystic.
But it is no less clear in the case of the Gospel itself. The spirit of the Gospel is eminently that of the “open” type which gives, asking nothing in return, and spends itself for others. It is essentially hostile to the spirit of calculation, the spirit of worldly prudence and above all to the spirit of religious self-seeking and self-satisfaction. For what is the Pharisee but a spiritual bourgeois, a typically “closed” nature, a man who applies the principle of calculation and gain not to economics but to religion itself, a hoarder of merits, who reckons his accounts with heaven as though God was his banker? It is against this “closed,” self-sufficient moralist ethic that the fiercest denunciations of the Gospels are directed. Even the sinner who possesses a seed of generosity, a faculty of self-surrender, and an openess of spirit is nearer to the kingdom of heaven than the “righteous” Pharisee; for the soul that is closed to love is closed to grace.
In the same way the ethos of the Gospels is sharply opposed to the economic view of life and the economic virtues. It teaches men to live from day to day without taking thought for their material needs. “For a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of things which he possesses.” It even condemns the prudent forethought of the rich man who plans for the future: “Thou fool, this night do they require thy soul of thee, and whose shall those things be which thou hast provided?”
On the whole, I am not quite as negative as Dawson. I like merchants and shopkeepers. We should be glad to have more shopkeepers and fewer serfs. But let’s look at what happened historically. The triumph of the merchant meant, in the long run, the triumph of commercial values which, paradoxically, led to the end of the merchant. Why? Because the predominant ethic of the merchant class, or the bourgeois, was that of maximizing profits. Profits are maximized by creating large economies of scale and eliminating competition (i.e., other merchants). Thus, a commercial society is dominated by a few powerful corporations whose primary purpose is making money, putting thousands of merchants out of business, and employing thousands of would-be merchants for low wages.
The real sinister thing about a commercial society is that the bourgeois merchant’s ethic ends up invading everything else. Manufacturing, for instance, becomes chiefly a matter of producing things that will yield the highest price for the least economic input. Salesmanship becomes every bit as important as quality and craftsmanship, or even more so. They tell you in school nowadays that everyone must be a salesman. In job interviews one is expected to “sell himself” to the interviewer. Self-promotion is mandatory: to fail at self-promotion is to fail at life. Employees are hired, evaluated, and fired based on their contribution to the “bottom line”. Similarly, employees treat employers as nothing more than a means to an end: one is expected to “job hop”, to make lateral career moves, on the basis of maximizing income. The commercial ethic has also conquered the ideals of government. It’s not uncommon for politicians to say things like “government should be run like a business”.
If we replace monetary profit with the idea of personal gain or satisfaction, we can see how commercial values have invaded things like religion, family, and relationships of every kind. It is commonly said that a friendship, a marriage, or a religion is only worth maintaining if one “gets something out of it”. Marriage is reduced to a private contract based on mutual benefit, like any other commercial transaction. When the benefits cease, the marriage is over. Modern Christians attend worship not to give themselves to God in prayer, but to be entertained or stimulated, to have a fulfilling experience. Etc.
It is easy to see how persons who do not conform themselves to bourgeois values find themselves on the margins of a commercial society. If you’re not a natural self-promoter; if you’re not sufficiently motivated by money, utility, or pleasure; if you’re constitutionally incapable of placing economic efficiency over good work done well; if you value loyalty and commitment above personal gain; if you refuse to distort the truth for the sake of salesmanship; if you refuse to treat economic competitors as enemies to be crushed; if you are incapable of pretending that good is evil, and that evil is good, for the sake of professional relationships – you will always be perceived as an outsider. Even if you are seldom directly challenged, your associates will intuitively sense that something about you is very different and a little frightening.
We aren’t going to fundamentally change our commercial society anytime soon. Those on the margins will have to do their best to conform and withstand the temptations to compromise. But perhaps there can be progress at carving out a niche for the incorrigible. Resurrecting the old guild system, in some form that works within the larger economy, might be worth exploring. Intentional communities can lead to intentional economic structures. Certainly there is no reason why governments, schools, hospitals, and other non-commercial institutions could not, in some measure, reclaim their original purposes and put bourgeois values back in their place. Large companies with comfortable advantages that are “too big to fail” can afford to revisit their priorities.
One thing is certain: a commercial society is a dynamic society, but it’s the dynamism of a freight train, not a pendulum. Our society’s dynamism is always oriented towards two specific goals: 1) fomenting human desire and discontent; and 2) removing all obstacles to their economic “solutions”. If we can’t stop the freight train, maybe it’s time to build another track.
My wife and I are often asked what we have done to raise a musical family. This is always slightly embarrassing because we didn’t really plan on raising a “musical family”, nor are we altogether sure why some children take to music and others don’t. Neither of us are musicians. Although Mrs. C. is fully Asian, she’s definitely not the Tiger Mom when it comes to music lessons and practice. Our children will also attest to the fact that we have (ahem) less-than-perfect parenting skills, and in some respects a non-ideal home life. But it turns out that we did raise what most people would call a “musical family”, and so I thought it might be helpful to share our family’s approach to music. It’s definitely not the only way, and perhaps not even the best way, but it has met with some success.
1. An educational philosophy that “music is curricular, not extra-curricular”. From the beginning, we were convinced that music is an essential component of a liberal education. And so we began with the attitude that music is not primarily something one does with “free time”, or something that (like other hobbies) must always be “fun” and “enjoyable” to be worthwhile. Rather, music is studied because it expresses the good, the true, and the beautiful; and because the knowledge of music enriches the whole man. Furthermore the lives of the great composers, the histories of famous and important works, and the influence of music on society should also be studied. Knowledge and competence comes first; the enjoyment comes later.
2. Respect for parents. This is a huge topic, and I’m not qualified to write the book, but children who don’t respect or obey their parents are not generally very teachable. Just paying for lessons isn’t going to help much. And getting them to practice is going to be a constant battle. So, it’s important that children be raised from the beginning with a healthy respect for their parents.
3. Home education. This not only gives a family lots of flexibility in terms of music lessons and event scheduling, but it can help children avoid unproductive and harmful distractions. Almost 50 percent of our city’s youth orchestra is home schooled.
4. No television. Our decision to live completely TV-free has eliminated one major distraction and a fierce competitor for the children’s free time (although now we have to fight with computers, etc.).
5. Exposure to good music. We’re not convinced of the “Mozart Effect”, but our children’s exposure to the best kinds of music – primarily sacred, classical, and folk music – begins in utero and continues throughout their childhood.
6. Limiting bad music. Certain genres of “music” are actually anti-musical. They erode the patience, calm, and mental discipline that is necessary to learn the art of real music. And so we have always tried to maintain a tight control over the kinds of music we allow in the home. Our children have not become addicted to rock music or any of its derivatives (rap, hip-hop, heavy metal, etc.) – what Professor Alan Bloom called “America’s drug of choice”. There are exceptions, but it’s rare for an electro-music-addicted young person to find anything appealing about classical piano or violin, or even traditional folk music. You might make him study it, but when he wants a musical diversion, he’ll always choose the passive stimulation of rock music before picking up the fiddle or sitting down at the piano.
7. Musical siblings. Having one or more siblings who also study music has a great many benefits, both tangible and intangible. They need each other, they help each other, and they play together.
8. Musical friends. There were, in fact, two families who inspired us when our oldest children were very young. We saw their beautiful enjoyment of music and wanted the same kind of joy for our family. Later on, we were blessed to have the friendship of one family in particular whose children were also musical, and with whom our children enjoyed playing.
9. “Yes” to music. All parents must say “no” to their children often enough. We decided early that we would try to say “yes”, whenever possible, to our children’s musical aspirations. That means sacrificing time and money for concerts, competitions, rehearsals, workshops, master classes, new instruments, and special trips of all kinds that were “above and beyond” what was minimally required for their studies.
10. Love and a happy home. I don’t like the Tiger Mom’s approach. It may result in good musicians sometimes, but I’ve talked to numerous people who resented that kind of upbringing and have dropped the music. There must be love in the home, and a genuine desire for the good of the children as opposed to parental or family prestige. Children can sense when your motives are off. Spend time talking about music and listening together, but don’t make an idol of it. At the same time, the laissez-faire approach is also mistaken. There needs to be firmness and discipline, especially in the beginning, at least for a minimal effort, and without any fear of occasional unpleasantness.
A personal distaste for the “sub-culture” of orthodox Catholicism has been evident with Dr. John Zmirak for quite some time. In recent weeks, however, this contempt has attained the level of a crusade. His latest rant is remarkable for its pleading stereotypes and crass superficiality:
The weirdness, bitterness, crankiness, and the general mediocrity that pervade the Catholic subculture – from its newspapers to its TV shows, from most of its tiny colleges to the poorly-penned books, and sloppy, sentimental blogs that flood the tiny market of conservative Catholic readers – is the direct result of having few people to choose from …
Is this Church of the Umbrella Handle, with its much smaller set of human types, the ‘smaller, purer Church’ of which Pope Benedict XVI spoke – or is it the subset of ‘neo-Pelagian immanentists’ against whom Pope Francis warned? Of course, it is both, and the wheat is irretrievably mixed up among the tares. But one thing is certain: It is as inbred as a pack of captive cheetahs, with all the dangers of deformity and disease that that implies.
The Church as righteous subculture is unappealing to nearly everyone – including the kids who grow up inside it, who despite all those years of homeschooling and chapel veils frequently flee for what look like saner pastures.
In fairness, Zmirak could have made a legitimate point here without gratuitously insulting the only Catholics left who give a damn. But that opportunity was squandered by his bitterness. One suspects that the author of “The Bad Catholic’s Guide to Wine, Whiskey, and Song” has been, shall we say, unlucky with the devout “home schooled and chapel veiled” set. I should hope so, at any rate.
What Zmirak fails to account for is the fact that without a “righteous sub-culture”, there is no Catholic culture – period. Bad Catholics like Zmirak (and I reluctantly include myself in his company) are by definition parasitical. If you want to be a bad Catholic you need a strong base of serious, orthodox, striving-for-holiness Catholics to sustain the cultural framework. I have discussed the idea at length in various posts over the years. Bad Catholics – defined as those who are less than devout but are not dissenters – are a tolerable and even amusing evil, but they are also a luxury, possible only when the Faith is strong and capable of producing saints. Today, that element is present only in the Catholic sub-culture Zmirak so passionately disparages.
The Catholic sub-culture certainly has warts. But it is virtually alone in producing orthodox vocations, raising large families, and handing down the faith from one generation to the next. Contrary to Zmirak’s insinuation that kids who grow up in this sub-culture are fleeing in droves (which may be his honest perception, as malcontents tend to attract malcontents), those small orthodox colleges are the only Catholic colleges where the overwhelming majority of graduates keep the Faith. As the sub-culture grows and rebuilds, it will also become more diverse, and a place for the Zmiraks of the world will be more secure. But at present, in all sobriety, the Church simply cannot afford Bad Catholics anymore. Bad Catholics drag the Church down just as much as the dissenters, if not more so, because they are more readily perceived as hypocrites (fairly or not) and because they discourage the weak by their impiety. Christ did not establish the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church for the pleasure and enjoyment of Bad Catholics. It was “the Church as righteous sub culture”, however unappealing to the worldly, that converted Rome and the world in the end.
From Psalm 9, Tuesday’s reading at the office of Prime:
“Arise, O Lord, let not man prevail; let the nations be judged in Thy sight.
Appoint, O Lord, a ruler over them, that the nations may know they are but men.”
This seems pertinent to a recent discussion at W4. I think it’s safe to say that the desire to be governed – in this world – by a just man, a monarch, is deeply rooted in the Christian soul. That’s not to say that other non-monarchial systems are illegitimate, but ultimately we want to be ruled by God’s vicar. The psalmist describes the unhappy alternative: man prevails on earth, assigning to himself god-like powers and usurping God’s prerogatives.
Many of you are already familiar with these recent stories:
For Catholics, the question is this: to what degree can a small business cooperate – without sin – with the evil of same-sex “marriage” and the legitimization of homosexual behavior? I’m no theologian, but it seems to me that the bakery and photographer in the stories linked above were asked to engage in mediate material cooperation with evil, defined as follows:
Mediate material cooperation is concurrence in the morally wrong action of another, not by actually doing the act in any way and not by intending to do the act, but by supplying some peripheral assistance, or preparation for the act to be performed. This assistance must be in itself a good or at least morally indifferent act.
Mediate material cooperation with evil is sometimes licit, and sometimes illicit, depending on circumstances. My current understanding of the problem is that such cooperation would be licit if: a) refusal of cooperation would result in an unreasonable burden (e.g., closing the business); and b) the cooperation is protested to the best of one’s ability.
If the LGBT regime in the state of Oregon requires one to sell a wedding cake for a homosexual couple pretending to get married, and the price of refusal is going out of business and losing one’s economic livelihood, it seems to me that the cake can be licitly baked and sold if done under protest. If I’m right about that (and I could be wrong), here are some suggestions for doing so:
1. Include with the packaged cake a tract on the four sins that “cry out to God for vengeance”.
2. Include a statement of protest on the receipt: “This cake was baked and sold under compulsion by the state of Oregon. Smith’s Bakery strongly protests this unjust law, opposes homosexual behavior, and affirms that marriage is impossible between two people of the same sex.”
3. Issue a public statement along these lines: “All proceeds derived from same-sex ‘wedding’ cakes will be donated to Courage, the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, or similar organizations.”
You’ll never listen to this beautiful work in the same way again …
This is an essay I wrote in 2004 for my first blog, El Camino Real, which is no longer online. I am posting it here for archiving purposes.
The liturgical, theological, and moral collapse within American Catholicism is much discussed and well documented in orthodox circles. There is widespread recognition that a crisis exists, even if there seems to be very little agreement as to its cause or cure. Various groups and associations have been formed with their own unique solutions, and some of them have done productive and excellent work indeed.
Yet there exists today another crisis in the Church that is barely discussed or examined at all: the crisis of community. The falling-away of many Catholics after the Second Vatican Council was tragic not only for the souls who left the Faith, but also for the souls who were left behind. Catholics who once depended upon their relatives, neighbors, and friends for social support and religious solidarity found themselves left alone in the cold. Of those who stubbornly remained with the Church, perhaps a majority were led to embrace the liturgical revolution and the new theologies. Orthodox, tradition-minded Catholics became outcasts in their own communities almost overnight. As a result of this disruption many of the faithful must look outside of their parishes and neighborhoods for solidarity. EWTN, Catholic Radio, and orthodox periodicals are primarily supported and enjoyed by Catholics who do not know each other.
For the fortunate few, non-geographical movements and religious orders have replaced the local parish as sources of orthodox teaching and example. Some find that the internet is the only place where intelligent discussion can be had with those who share a zeal for Christ and His Church. Others discover that they have more in common with their Protestant neighbors than with the modernist, dissenting Catholics in their local parish, and so they become susceptible to a kind of “conservative” indifferentism. Still others, in their extreme isolation, become vulnerable to the influence of sedevacantists and various schismatic sects.
The irony is that the destruction of Catholic community is due, in part, to the replacement of the old God-centered and vertical orientation with a new community-centered and horizontal orientation as pertaining to liturgy and parish life. Beware the law of unintended consequences! Authentic Christian community presupposes the absolute primacy of God and Church and never results when community is its own raison d’etre.
The crisis of community presents a serious problem for the Catholic family. The training and nurture of Catholic children – if it is to be effective – requires the long term influence and reinforcement of other Catholic personalities. Raising orthodox Catholic children alone in a sea of secularists, modernists, and Protestants is a recipe for confusion and alienation. Furthermore, it is essential for the health of Catholic marriages that spouses maintain friendships with members of the same sex who are strong in the Faith. The tragic absence of community, the decline of the extended family, and the contemporary demise of same sex friendship has resulted in enormous pressure for husbands and wives to fulfill each other’s every social need. Such unrealistic expectations have undoubtedly resulted in many failed marriages.
The Public Square
Although the United States was never a Catholic nation, there have long been regions, cities, and neighborhoods in our country with a strongly Catholic flavor. The influence of Catholicism in such places was strong enough to be taken seriously even by non-Catholics. Great cities like Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, and San Francisco once had sizable Catholic populations which not only gave these cities a unique cultural flavor, but also provided a political and moral bulwark that could not be ignored. Things weren’t perfect – there was never an American Catholic Shangri-la – but the Church and her faithful members were not politically and culturally marginalized as they are today.
The concentration of numbers is also important from a purely missionary and evangelical perspective. It is true that individual Catholics can live holy lives and perform good works wherever they find themselves – even when isolated in non-Catholic communities. However, their non-Catholic neighbors may not ascribe their virtues to their religion unless there are other corroborating examples. The greater the numbers, the better and more effective the witness. The fact is that the Church cannot influence the culture unless there are strong geographical concentrations of committed and faithful Catholics. Such concentrations no longer exist in America on a meaningful scale.
As the world becomes increasingly hostile to Christian values, it will become more and more difficult for Catholics to work for the businesses and corporations that dominate the mainstream economy. It is therefore necessary to create an alternate economy, a network of small Catholic businesses that can employ those who are no longer willing to compromise with the emerging Leviathan, and who can conduct business beneath the radar of corporate HR departments. In order for such businesses to survive, they will need patrons and employees who live in the same area: i.e., they will need the support of large, local Catholic communities.
Stability and Culture
Culture takes time. In order for a genuine culture to develop, like-minded people must live together in one place for at least several generations. By “like-minded”, we do not mean a rigid uniformity, but a commitment to first principles, such as those supplied by the Catholic Church. By “together in one place”, we do not mean a tightly controlled commune or a fortress, but merely a region or neighborhood where there is regular and sustained interaction among the people who live there.
Culture building requires that most people inculcate a love for their region, city, or neighborhood – a loyalty to one’s home and extended family. Catholic culture is all but destroyed in our land because these things have all been lost. Those who do live together are not like-minded; those who are like-minded do not live together; and those who are like-minded and do happen to live together are not usually Catholic. We are faced, then, with the irony that rebuilding a stable Catholic culture – if it is to be done at all — will require the uprooting and resettlement of vast numbers of people. We are starting over.
What are the options?
There has long been an impulse in Christianity that favors living apart from the ungodly influences of the world. Towards that end the Church has blessed a surprising variety of communal expressions, ranging from monasticism to enclosed missionary villages. In the modern West there have been numerous attempts to create small Catholic villages based on the ideals of distributism and the teachings of papal encyclicals. However, due to extreme economic hardship and a peculiar susceptibility to personality cults, these ventures have not met with much success. More recently we have heard about a group of Protestants who want to create a Christian State in South Carolina, and a group of Libertarians who want to create a Free State in New Hampshire, but they have their mind too much on politics.
We are not proposing anything as radical or ambitious as the above. Our current economic system is a cruel master, and most forty-year old suburban insurance salesmen and business attorneys are not going to uproot their families to start over somewhere as the village butcher – even if they should. Catholic resettlement, if it is going to be anything other than a fringe movement, will have to consider modern cities with a viable economic base. Most importantly, the rebuilding of Catholic community must take place around existing orthodox parishes, and these are primarily in the cities.
To this writer, the most attractive model is that of identifying an existing community for Catholic colonization. It is critical that such a place be home to an established center of orthodox Catholic life, preferably an apostolate served by one of the traditional orders. The city should have a population between 5,000 and 50,000 people: small enough to be lovable, but large enough to make gainful employment realistic. A smaller town might be considered if located near a city with decent employment opportunities. Affordable rural acreage should be available within a short commute. One might live anywhere within a city of this size and still be no more than ten minutes away from any other place or person in town. Moreover, the cultural and political impact of, let us say, five thousand new Catholics will be far more significant in a city of 25,000 than a city of 500,000.
Another model is that of resettling specific neighborhoods around orthodox parishes in existing major cities. This seems less exciting with respect to influencing politics and the surrounding culture, but it would substantially improve community life and might eventually have a much larger impact. Daily Mass would be accessible to all. Homeschooling families and Catholic businesses would have the local support they need. The goal should be to find employment and to start new businesses in close proximity to the parish, slashing commute time and increasing time available for family, friends, and religion.
The colonization project would need a small group of pioneering families, a newsletter or website for publicity, and perhaps a relocation fund to help lower-income families with expenses. Every good thing starts small. Grandiose plans usually involve grandiose egos that eventually destroy what they sought to create. Yet it remains true that something must be done if any remnant of Christendom is going to survive the present barbarian assaults. Is this task for you? The important work of preservation will be carried out by ordinary Catholics who realize that they are not called to live as radical individualists, but as servants of Christ and members of His Mystical Body in the world. And who knows? In the process, we could witness the rebirth of Catholic civilization right here in the United States, in our own lifetimes.
The final promise of the Scout oath is the most important: “to keep myself … morally straight”. And that promise has now been broken by the leadership of the Boy Scouts of America in a spectacular way.
The new membership policy states that “No youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” Some Catholic commentators, including bishops, note that the bare words of this policy do not violate Catholic teaching. And that is quite true in the strictest sense of “orientation” and “preference”. I have all kinds of orientations and preferences that are opposed to the virtues of Scouting, and even opposed to the commandments of God. Living a “morally straight” life means striving to overcome sinful or disordered “orientations”. A literal reading of the new policy is therefore not a problem for Catholics.
In fact, the Scout’s previous policy doesn’t even violate the new policy. The old policy asserted “… we do not grant membership to individuals who are open or avowed homosexuals or who engage in behavior that would become a distraction to the mission of the BSA.” Sexual orientation or preference wasn’t the issue. Same-sex attraction, by itself, was never enough to be excluded from membership. The problem was the openness and the self-identification with homosexuality. The policy referred to “avowed homosexuals”, avowed meaning “to declare openly, boldly, and unashamedly”. The issue has always been the open and public identification with homosexuality and the implied approval of homosexual acts.
What, then, has changed?
The Boy Scouts of America did not simply tack a new explanatory note onto the old policy. If they had, the clarification would have been unremarkable. Rather, the Boy Scouts of America repealed the old policy and replaced it with a new one. Taken at face value, the mild language about “sexual orientation or preference” in the new policy is a red herring. It’s not the real story. The big news is that the former policy excluding “open or avowed homosexuals” has been formally rejected.
Now that we’ve examined the plain words, let us confront the plain message behind the words. The fact that the exclusion of “open or avowed homosexuals” was replaced with a prohibition of exclusion based on “sexual orientation or preference” indicates that, in the minds of BSA leadership, “sexual orientation or preference” is expected to be “open or avowed”. The unmistakable message is that open or avowed homosexuals are no longer excluded from membership.
Teenage boys talk about lots of things. Very often, they talk about girls – even chaste boys who are not sexually active, and who have no intention of being sexually active until marriage, can talk a lot about girls. Presumably scouts who consider themselves homosexuals will be free to talk about other boys in the same way that normal boys talk about girls, and nothing can be done about it (unless, of course, talking about girls is now forbidden.) This will change the entire culture of the organization by introducing a sexual element into the group, permeating every relationship. A certain innocence will be lost, trust will be compromised, needless confusion will be sowed, and social pressure will increase exponentially. Consider the fact that BSA’s magazine for boys, Boy’s Life, runs an advice column that often deals with “girl problems”. Expect this column to begin addressing “boy problems” in the near future. As a recent case here in northern California demonstrates, the unchecked presence of homosexuality within a troop can and does lead to disaster.
Open homosexuality adds still another more insidious, tyrannical element to the problem: that of institutional dishonesty. Everyone must now pretend that homosexual behavior is natural, moral, and healthy. Sexually confused boys, who might otherwise grow up normally, may come to believe it themselves and act accordingly. Worst of all, though, the culture of lies now forced on the Boy Scouts of America will produce a systematic and habitual dishonesty within the organization across the board.
Thus far, to the best of my knowledge, of the Catholic bishops to whom we look for leadership and direction only Bishop Paul Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington, VA, has had the courage to suggest that the new policy “forces us to prayerfully reconsider whether a continued partnership with the BSA will be possible”. Otherwise the response of Catholic bishops has been weak and insipid, to say the least – though not surprising given the dismal state of the Church today. With respect to the new policy the National Catholic Committee on Scouting wants to “study its effects”. Give me a break. I suggest they study the Bible and Catechism.
There is some good news on the horizon. A coalition of former BSA leaders and parents are meeting in Louisville, Kentucky next month to plan for a new organization that will be true to the traditional virtues of Scouting.
“I am pleased to announce that OnMyHonor.Net along with other likeminded organizations, parents and BSA members, are announcing a coalition meeting that will take place next month in Louisville, Kentucky. There we will discuss the creation of a new character development organization for boys. While the meeting will be private, your voice is very important to us and will be represented there. We will host and facilitate a national coalition meeting of former BSA parents and other youth leaders who wish to return to truly timeless values that once made the BSA great. We welcome your comments as we develop our plans. Please share your thoughts with us at Contact@OnMyHonor.Net.”
There is a growing movement of Catholic scouting called the Federation of North American Explorers. This group has a lot of promise and organizational support is already in place. Also – Dr. Taylor Marshall of Fisher-More College is launching the Catholic Scouts of St. George, which seems to have gained considerable traction in a short time.
As for scouting in Chico, I am not optimistic. Our scoutmaster, God bless him, is furious and disgusted at the BSA’s decision and is soul-searching about what to do. Yet he feels “obligated to carry on the tradition”, and I can’t help but sympathize. The troop has been a blessing for these boys, many of whom have formed great friendships and worked hard to achieve their rank. Conservative troops like ours will probably try to carry on as usual, hoping the subject never comes up. Alternative scouting organizations are not likely to find much support around here.
Scouting families need to understand something. The Boy Scouts of America isn’t going to let troops ignore the homosexual agenda. A memo from the Golden Empire Council hints at “new safety trainings, camp dynamics, and other incremental changes” on the way. The BSA today isn’t the same organization it was last week. The uniform today stands for something different.