It’s funny, to someone who knows the history, how close the Minnesota state capitol sits to the cathedral of Saint Paul. Our first archbishop, John Ireland, was one of the great proponents of the Americanist heresy, that belief that our nation’s Catholics must adjust their creeds to the way of democratic government, so perhaps it’s fitting that Minnesota’s great temple to Christ stands so near our temple to Demos—they seem almost to share space, separated as they are by a lot of scraggly grass called our mall, the Minnesota History Museum, and an ugly thoroughfare from downtown to the interstate. Though, as a credit to the Catholic men who built that cathedral, Christ’s dome still stands higher, and looms greater, from the distance. The cathedral was built on a hill.
About that hill: A mid-January custom has arisen at the cathedral called the “Crashed Ice” festival, a poor man’s X-Games sponsored by Red Bull energy drinks. I was in town for another mid-January event, the March for Life at the capitol, coming in from an outstate diocese with a busload of fellow Catholics. Our bus drove right beneath the ramp on which dozens of skaters would soon race, accompanied by the sounds of cheering crowds and thumping pop music, resounding through the empty temple, through tabernacle and the body of Christ. On this warm, iceless day, it stuck out from the face of the cathedral-like a long nose. There was part of me that hoped that our busload of Catholics—including some priests and the bishop—would rush out and tear down the scaffolding, though I learned later the cathedral young adults group actually sends volunteers to the event. Part of the new evangelization, I guess.
This is what goes for positive publicity amongst Minnesotan Catholics nowadays. The archdiocese not long ago declared bankruptcy after sex abuse lawsuits and some frivolous criminal charges brought by the Ramsey County Attorney. At the height of this controversy Archbishop Nienstedt, who three years before valiantly supported a constitutional referendum to define marriage as between one man and one woman, was accused of being a homosexual and forced to resign. These allegations were probably false, but in a country were two-thirds of American Catholics support gay marriage, what are you going to do?
And truthfully, getting hung up about the desecration of a cathedral is one thing, but being surprised about it is another. Most Catholic public events are only nominally so—they display not only indifference to the faith, but a certain level of embarrassment by it. Your average modern parish will host quite a few bake sales, charity auctions, AA meetings through the year; very few will broach upon a direct mention of God. One gets the feeling, attending modern church events, that they are attempts to prove to the government the social benefit of tax-exemptions, not any attempt to convert the heathen within their walls. Such is the state of the modern Church.
Against the backdrop of the craven and weak modern Church, the March for Life is exceptional. Otherwise moribund parishes actively engage in pro-life causes. Priests and bishops who blanch away from condemning contemporary evils gain the courage to call out the mass carnage wrought by the American abortion regime. Even Fr. James Martin, who otherwise might serve as the incarnated culmination of all heresies, recognizes the right to life of the unborn. It’s one of the few realms where churchmen and the laity are in relative accord. In a modern world seemingly free from any kind of zealots, the pro-life movement appears almost Pentecostal.
A dead baby, after all, is a dead baby. And this, in fact, explains why the pro-life cause is so popular in the modern Church. Events like the March for Life show that the laity still has a desire to believe in something greater than themselves, and churchmen still have a desire to lead their flocks in the way of virtue. But it’s relatively easy to convince people sitting in the pews that the murder of babies is a bad thing—much easier than talking about the blood of Christ, the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Mother, the fires of Hell, surely. In a sense, the very outsized part the pro-life movement plays in the modern Church shows her weakness in a country drunk on materialism and of lukewarm faith.
In practice, the Catholic commitment to oppose abortion is incredibly weak; Catholics generally look like hypocrites and liars. Let’s look past the non-enforcement of Canon Law which allows rabid abortion-lovers like Tim Kaine and Nancy Pelosi to remain in good standing in the Church. We might chalk this up to the weakness of the institutional Church in the United States, an acknowledgment of the inarguable powerless of their position more than a betrayal of principle. Denying Democrats the Eucharist will do nothing but bring on the persecution at a faster clip. Why risk the damnation of all for the sake of those who are already beyond hope?
It’s more instructive to look at the Church in realms over which it has complete authority more autonomy of Third World immigrants, who vote overwhelmingly for candidates who support abortion. Anyone even moderately acquainted with the statistics who can argue that immigration is not intimately connecting with the pro-life cause is a dirty liar; as long as American demographic trends continue, the pro-life cause is dead in the water.
Yet the Catholic Church in the United States is one of the greatest proponents of immigration. The vague moral precept in the Catechism that rich nations should take in the poor has been transformed into a mandate, with the necessary effect that Americans will never be able to make laws according to Christian morality at all! More fascinating than this is the Church’s late succor to illegals, for this is not just wretched policy, but it is a sin. All Catholics are obligated to follow just, generally applicable laws. Nor is flouting a mere regulation; illegal immigration requires constant lies, theft, and fraud on the part of the immigrant.
How can churchmen justify this? There is no coherent Christian argument that US immigration laws, in general, or in particular, are unjust. Illegal immigration is not only evil in its effect, but evil in its very practice. The institutional Church’s policy on immigration is not merely stupid; it is not merely hypocritical; it is actively and perniciously evil. The institutional Church will violate one of its basic principles and ignore two others, all to support—what?
In all revolutions, there arises some point of inflection where the same nominal ideals which presaged the revolution remain, yet which have been thrown off-kilter so as to create a new morality starkly different from the morality of the old regime. Most transformations of this sort are, of course, accompanied by changes in outward form, making the transformation abundantly clear.
Pharisees and aesthetes complain about the physical transformation that took place following the Second Vatican Council, and these complaints are shot down by conservative Catholics, who tell us the ideals and principles of the Church remain the same—they must remain the same—it is only outward appearances which have changed, not the Church herself. But anyone who seriously considers the individual principles espoused by the Novus Ordo Church soon realizes that, while they are nominally the same as they have ever been, they have become so grossly distorted and rearranged as to form an ethos incomprehensible to the historic Church. And so it’s not enough to blame the failures of the modern Church on impotence or greed; it’s not enough to blame it on shortsightedness. In econ-speak, the Church is revealing its preference for ideals higher than protecting the lives of innocents.
Let’s put ourselves in the place of the churchmen at the time of the close of the Second Vatican Council. This was 1965, also the year of Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court decision which created a right to contraception within marriage and, accordingly, outlawed all attempts to regulate the use of birth control for married couples (single people would have to wait another seven years before receiving this privilege). Any debate about “Americanism” was settled here; the holding absolutely confirmed that the U.S. Constitution was an enemy of Catholic moral teaching. Americans had an affirmative right to commit mortal sin and, more importantly, now had no political means to prevent this evil.
The Church in America did nothing important against this declaration of war. In other times there would have been soldiers to engage in this battle. But a papal commission investigating the Church’s constant teaching on birth control left those Catholics who might have opposed the holding on shaky ground. Even when Pope Paul VI bravely confirmed the Church’s constant teaching in Humanae Vitae, enough North American bishops had signed onto the treasonous Winnipeg Statement, which blatantly opposed Paul, to make the issue a non-starter. The Church Militant were weakened in innumerable other ways: By the smashing of statues and communion rails, by the wholesale acceptance of ethnic cleansing in the form of integration, and, most importantly, the defilement of the greatest accomplishment of Western civilization: The Latin Mass.
There’s an alternate reality held by conservative Catholics where the reforms of Vatican II are properly implemented, and the reforms actually lead to a recrudescence of the faith in the Western world. This is a pipe dream. Whatever the good intentions and orthodoxy of the council fathers, Vatican II was always, in practice, a weapon to be used against the orthodox. No one could doubt this fact by the time of Roe v. Wade. To actually oppose abortion in 1973—to even have had a chance of this—would have required engaging with orthodox Catholics, both by keeping them in the pews and luring back the millions who drifted away. These were the people who had grown up under the tutelage of orthodox nuns and listening to Fulton J. Sheen and Father Coughlin. These were ethnics with proud histories, with identities apart from football teams. These were people whose neighborhoods were quickly being destroyed by civil rights law and the non-enforcement of the laws that were on the books. If ever a potential for counterrevolution existed in America, it was then.
Was this counterrevolution realistic? God knows. What is clear is that the institutional Church in the West couldn’t have allowed such a counterrevolution to occur. To succor a counterrevolution would have meant strengthening the orthodox and conservative within the Church. To oppose Roe would mean to give up the reform; to give the reins back to the rosary-fondling bigoted dark masses. This was impossible.
The Church’s opposition to abortion has never been sincere since that time. It could not be. The Novus Ordo Church was erected in part on this Faustian bargain. Of all the “smoke of Satan” that entered the Church in that period, the blot of abortion, and the Church’s almost complete failure to fight it was the darkest. This was the bargain of the Second Vatican Council. What the Vendee and the Terror were to the French, the abortion holocaust is to the revolution of Vatican Two.
Even this very year, the Church could end abortion if it so desired. In Minnesota, for example, my taxes directly help pay for abortions, per the illegal dictate of our supreme court. Every taxpayer in the state has blood on his hands, is thoroughly indicted by this great holocaust. Why not propose that Catholics abstain from these taxes? Can one propose a more moderate and efficacious program? We’re not talking about harassing or injuring abortionists. We’re not talking about property damages, even. We’re talking civil disobedience based on clear Catholic teaching, a statement of non possumus with regards to our own money being used to continue this machinery of death.
Where is the call for this? Where is discussion? Is it feasible? If it isn’t feasible, why not? What can we do to make it feasible? We’re dealing with murder, with the slaughter of innocents. Sixty million dead children—we have to think of something. Don’t we?
The best abortion counselors I’ve met—the people who actually stand outside abortion clinics, intercepting women before they can enter and murder their child. Abortion counselors are usually older women, usually hard-headed and tough, used to standing long hours in the cold and the heat, used to being spat upon by scumbags and hurried along by the cops. Truly dedicated abortion counselors take no mind of ego and optics and are aware they are operating outside the bounds of respectability. The best counselor I’ve met was barred from parking at the church closest to the abortion clinic, and the nearest coffee shop wouldn’t even serve her. Yet in her zeal and single-mindedness, she was like an assassin, though of course her “body count” was the measure of lives she had saved.
People at the March for Life are almost universally quite bubbly; friendly, gregarious, straight-laced, well-groomed. Like me, they often come from out of town, and they use the opportunity to see the sights when they can. In modern America, even a march acknowledging the holocaust of infants must be a cheery affair. The signs they hold are colorful, the messages they contain are always positive and sometimes even hilarious. One has to be optimistic because, of course, we have God on our side, and God will always prevail in the end. (Keynesian joke: In the long run, 60 million babies are dead.) The requiem mass was done away with after the Second Vatican Council, so maybe the people there just don’t know how to mourn the dead. Imagine a man in sackcloth and ashes, scourging himself with whips in the middle of the crowd of moms and dads, of cute college girls, of state legislators. That would be a little weird, eh?
What exactly are we trying to convey? We’re talking about mass murder here; not only mass murder, but mass murder of infants; not only murder of infants, but one achieved by the openly criminal usurpation of the Supreme Court. Protests are generally a means to show signs of support for policy or policymakers. But the very reason the March for Life exists is that policymaking plays no role in the abortion regime. Our free speech rights are constrained outside of abortion clinics; the “undue burden” test of Casey which was supposed to lend some leniency to the regime will not allow states to regulate abortionists as they would a regular medical provider. The Court not only spits on the law as it stands but in asserting every man’s right to define when the “mystery of human life” begins, assaults the very idea of objective law itself. Remember, the Court is a branch of government with the least inherent power. Unlike the executive, it has no police or military. Unlike the legislature, it does not control ways and means. It employs almost no one compared to the behemoths of the modern bureaucratic state. And yet the Court is allowed its stolen power with nary a fight. The ruling class will not assert the claims they can—and actually must—assert in the constitutional system.
But all for naught. Go to a march. Senators, Representatives—the President himself!—inveigh against a holding so absurd, so clearly illegal, that the Court could not adhere to its own fraud in the years between Roe and Casey (the three Republican appointees who wrote the opinion claimed precedent was the reason for keeping the test they created in Roe—then they changed the test!). It is all fraud, all theater, acted out by the most powerful people in the world, signifying nothing.
When you realize this fact, the spectacle becomes quite pathetic—embarrassing even. Yet the event is popular. There is a great deal of magnanimity at these events, but not a great deal of sincerity.When in history has a group ever made such a heavy claim—the genocide of tens of millions!—and behaved so demurely?Here we understand the humble laity are little better than their superiors. What oppressed people does not aim at the heart and root of its woes?
Remember the hubbub of Candidate Trump suggesting women who murder their children should be criminally prosecuted? Poor Candidate Trump was only saying what he thought was logically necessary. But pro-lifers said this was off limits. Perhaps some of this was realpolitik—there’s no reason to ask for blood when you have no power, after all. But you got the impression that wasn’t the case. It’s like pro-lifers wouldn’t know what to do with power even if they got it.
Still, a dead baby is a dead baby. This much can be proved by sight, sound, by touch. It stands fairly strong as a tenet of faith precisely because it requires so little faith. This fact alone explains the pro-life movement’s great significance to the Novus Ordo Church; one gets the feeling that abortion opposition is the only thing keeping the Novus Ordo Church from flying into a thousand different sects. Recognition of the numinous is now almost completely absent from the Novus Ordo mass. The central claim of the mass, that Our Lord is present in the form of bread and wine at the Eucharist, is contradicted in the very mass itself: In the fat ladies chosen as “extraordinary” Eucharistic ministers, in the boomers taking Our Lord in their hands, in the particles of Our Lord scattered over the floor, stepped upon by sandals and crocs. The New Mass, in practice, is an exercise in hypocrisy. The Church’s central ritual now tempts men not to believe in it. And, by and large, they don’t.
Still, a dead baby’s a dead baby. Let’s weigh principles again. How many young women at the March would give up, say, their vote in order to wound the regime? The ludicrous experiment of female suffrage has been an incredible failure. Why not roll it back? Remove women to the stage of their proper government, which is over the home. Would women compromise on the principle of suffrage in order to defend the principle that babies have a right to life?
But perhaps the vote is taboo. How many Marchers would give up their contraceptives? How many women would relinquish the sexual power the past half-century has given them? Outdoor protests in January are not propitious to short-shorts and tees, but you’ll still find plenty women Marchers wearing contour-fitting jeans and tights behind the “Pro-Family, Pro Women, Pro-Life” signs. For a large part of the Marchers—probably a majority—the issue of sexual morality is tenuously connected or even distinct from that of abortion. The average Marcher, just like the average American, has thoroughly embraced the contraceptive mindset. She has divorced sex from childbearing. Just stop killing your babies—then everything will be alright.
A dead baby is a dead baby. But without the underlying Christian faith, the practice of abortion is difficult to condemn morally, impossible to condemn in practice. Abortion is a second tier issue. It is the natural result of the liberation of women; the natural result of contraception, of our contemporary lack of chastity. A culture of casual sex by intellectual and spiritual fools requires some kind of suffering to maintain. Yet for almost all abortion opponents, abortion is an issue completely divorced from sex. They operate on the delusion, built by centuries of Christian sexual morality, that chastity, in the form of lifelong monogamy, is natural. But the exact opposite is true. Chastity is unnatural, unfeasible, and, as Fr. John Hardon put it, humanly impossible without divine aid in the form of the Eucharist. Chastity is unnatural. Deference to the weak is unnatural. But abortion is completely natural. Roman midwives kept a jar of water beside the bed to drown those babes they had not already snuffed out. Why should it be any different? Abortion frees up the resources of the state, liberates the passions, eliminates the defectives—the retarded, the feeble, the crippled. Why oppose this? Why give the weak such power over the strong? The helpless over the able?
To say the same thing in a different way: The modern liberal state would be unsustainable without the safety valve of abortion. Women could not be trusted as students or workers if children were an unregulated enticement away from wage-slavery. Young men might focus more on saving than the empty consumption of goods and services which keep our unproductive economy afloat. And racial grievances would finally be unsustainable; put bluntly, the system which fosters 70% illegitimacy rates among blacks, and later consigns them to stupidity and squalor through the administrative state, could not endure if so many black mothers did not slaughter their young. If blacks in New York did not snuff out half their progeny, the city would have collapsed long ago. The pro-lifer’s position is based on a moral claim; the pro-abortionist’s position is based on practical necessity.
Thus, the enemy is much more serious about abortion than we are. Modern Christians and the modern Church are simply not prepared to meet this task. When I was at the March, it was fairly large—I’m bad at estimating numbers, but probably a couple thousand. The Women’s March the day before, which supported all the things Pro-lifers must oppose (whether they know it or not) brought in 100,000. Numbers-wise, they cleaned our clocks. It’s too simple to say merely that they cared more. Their argument was stronger. The logic of hedonism is consistent. The logic of Christianity is incoherent without divine sacrifice, without suffering. And this is something few Christians, and even few pro-lifers, are willing to offer.
The problem with the modern Church is not that its churchmen are hypocrites. The problem is that they have acted too fully on what they believe, and what they believe is not in accord with Christ’s Church. And for this reason, any serious attempt to grapple with the abortion regime requires not primarily a political solution, but conversion. It must begin by the recognition that what pro-lifers strive for is not humanly possible, and the reclamation of the one institution founded by the man through whom all things were. It must begin with an attempt to reclaim the intellectual basis of the old faith before the Second Vatican Council turned it into a mere offshoot of liberalism. It must begin and end with submission to the Eucharist. Only then will we see anything close to the zeal necessary to actually strike at the heart of the abortion regime. The anger one feels in seeing his cathedral turned into an amusement park, in seeing the open traducing of the Body of Christ within, soon turns to fear when one realizes God is not mocked, and His vengeance is daily repaid.