Robert Royal

Quo vadis, O bishops?

Robert Royal
By Robert Royal

I am not a big fan of taking the long view. It may sometimes be wise, even necessary, in human terms. But I’m far more attracted by what is probably the most neglected of Jesus’ sayings: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!” (Lk. 12:49)

The U.S. bishops are meeting in Baltimore this week for their annual get-together. The scuttlebutt is that they will be mostly discussing matters internal to the Church in America. If they were asking my advice – for some reason, they seem to have forgotten to call – I would strongly urge that they begin with a collective session of lectio divina about kindling fires.

I’d also suggest a few other things. To start with, forget about being nice. It doesn’t work. Be gentlemen. Be kind. But forget nice. As learned Latinists, you no doubt know that the word comes from nescius, which means ignorant. It came, early in modern languages, to mean foolish. Today, an idiomatic translation might be: clueless.

Kindness, of course, is a different matter entirely. Our Lord was kind – kind enough to tell people the truth. His combination of hard and soft is always what we need. Nietzsche, who was brought up among fussing women in a wishy-washy Protestant pastor’s home, emphasized the need to be hard. Like all heretics, he had a point, but rode it a bit too hard to the neglect of other truths.

Christianity, as Nietzsche noted, has been becoming overly feminized, as has the developed world. Mary is the model Christian and the people who have been pushing the Communio theology are right: our first orientation has to be passive, to receive what God is telling us as the Virgin received the Word into her womb.

Women are quite capable at times of some of the masculine virtues, of course. But forget the politically correct notion that there are no specifically male and female virtues. In the normal course of things, when the refrigerator needs to be moved, it’s father and son, not mother and daughter, who should do the heavy lifting.

And in the middle of the night, if there’s a noise downstairs that sounds like a burglar, you don’t nudge your wife and say, “Your turn. I went down to check last time.” Be men. Think big. Act big, too. Play big-league ball.

The LCWR, the media, and other softballers will continue to try to thwart you with talk of patriarchy and the old boys’ club. Be true gentlemen. Listen to all sincerely, but listen to God more.

Beware of the two great distortions, bordering on heresies, in our time:

–  “Judge not.” Yes, that’s in the Bible, but Christ had no difficulty also stating the difference between right and wrong. In fact, you may have noticed that there’s more than a little holy anger in the Gospels and dire prophetic warnings to individuals and whole groups. Christ is the model. Are you going to follow Him or take the easy way, the one that only seems compassionate? (See “nice” above.)

– “But Jesus welcomed everyone.” Yes, he did, but on His terms, not theirs. If Christianity means just accepting everybody as they already are, indeed as they demand to be accepted – evil capitalists and mean orthodox Christians excepted, of course – why have a Church at all? The politicians are already quite prepared to tell everyone (with the same exceptions just noted) how wonderful, unless it’s “amazing,” they all are. Leave that sort of thing to the snake-oil salesmen.
Be clear about this. The person who invented the phrase, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness,” was no real Christian. Jesus does both, and Catholics are practitioners of the both/and, not the either/or.

Do you think Mother Teresa would have thought she’d done enough if she had just picked up beggars in Calcutta and not also talked about the callousness of heart and self-indulgence of the wealthy nations who were – safely, legally, and far from rarely – doing away with their own children in the womb?

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Be prepared to suffer for the Faith. The world will always play the role it must when it hears the truth. Welcome fair criticism, but accept it in the right spirit. When John Paul II called for a “purification of memory” as we approached the beginning of the new Christian millennium, he was utterly frank about the Church’s past sins. But he never let humility and truth turn into a kind of “Kick Me” sign on the Church’s back.

Know that many Catholics, and non-Catholics, are with you. Seek them out. And the best way to do so is to lead from the front. The apostles knew it was a bad idea, in a sense, for Jesus to go into Jerusalem at the end. But they saw who He was, what He was willing to risk, and they were willing to risk much themselves so that at least they could die with Him.

I know several of you, and know that some of you know all this. But we need you to inspire even more of your fellow bishops.

You have lifetime tenure and jobs that make a real difference. Most people are stuck in humdrum tasks that don’t seem to mean very much. This is an exciting moment in Catholic history that offers opportunities for all the imagination, intelligence, and daring that you can bring to the many challenges at hand.

So make the most of it. Cherish it. Blessed are you.

Royal received his BA and MA from Brown University and his PhD from The Catholic University of America. He has taught at Brown University, Rhode Island College, and The Catholic University of America. From 1986 to 1999 he served as vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, along with president George Weigel from 1989 to 1996.

He is currently editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, an online publication he launched with Michael Novak and the president of the “Faith and Reason Institute”, based in Washington, D.C.. He also serves as the Graduate Dean of Catholic Distance University and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute.

This column first appeared on the site The Catholic Thing. Copyright 2012, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Editor’s Note:Unfortunately the comments below this story do not belong to it. The external Disqus commenting service tends to mess up from time to time and there is very little that we can do about it. We apologize for the inconvenience.


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Émile Bayard's classic illustration of Cosette in Victor Hugo's Les Miserables.
Anthony Esolen Anthony Esolen Follow Anthony

Tracts and sermons alone won’t form pro-life children. Here’s what will.

Anthony Esolen Anthony Esolen Follow Anthony
By Anthony Esolen

What is remarkable in our age is not that half of our citizens believe it is wrong to kill the child in the womb, the child whose existence, except in the rare case of rape, is owing to our own voluntary actions.  That would be like congratulating ourselves for believing that it's wrong to steal someone's car, to lie under oath to hurt an enemy, to throw our aged parents into the street, or to desecrate churches.  Where is the great moral insight?  What's remarkable instead is that half of us believe it is all right to snuff out the life of that child – because nothing must be allowed to interfere with our “right” to pursue pleasure, as we use the child-making thing as a sweating-off spa on our way to money, prestige, a five-bathroom mansion for two, a tenured chair in Women's Studies, the mayoralty of Camden, another year of nights out on the town, whatever.

How have we come to this pass?  Our imaginations are stunted or diseased, that's how.
 Let churchgoers beware.  You cannot spread pro-life icing on a cake made of flour and rat poison.  Our children meet with rat poison everywhere.  Do they watch Friends on television, that un-funny amoral “comedy” about nihilist young urbanites trading depressions in the mattress with one another?  Rat poison.  Do they watch movies like – well, the moronic Titanic, wherein a shrewish girl and a pouty boy fornicate before they are swallowed by the deep blue sea?  Rat poison.  Do their school teachers feed them such exalted lyric poetry as that of Sylvia Plath, imagining what it would be like to smash her sleeping husband's head like a rotten pumpkin?  Or the bogus Laramie Project, making a hero out of a deeply disturbed young man, killed in a meth deal?  Or Toni Morrison's maudlin obsessions with race and adultery?  Is it an endless cafeteria of ghouls, vampires, girl-murderers – Lord of the Flies, without the severe moral imagination and the talent of William Golding?  Lord of the Flies, Lady of the Flies, Cheerleaders of the Flies, Lifeguard of the Flies, Mr. Goodbar of the Flies, Fight Club of the Flies, Hunger of the Flies?  Rat poison, with that peculiar character of rat poison, that the more the critter consumes, the thirstier it grows.  Vice is the addiction that mimics the habit of virtue.  One hour a week on Sunday does not flush out the strychnine.  Theology lessons are band-aids when your arteries are porous inside.  The forming of a moral imagination is not something additional in the education of a child.  It is the education of a child. 

Click "like" if you are PRO-LIFE!

Your child sees a commercial for Planned Predators.  The commercial baldly states that it doesn't matter who your “partners” are, how many you have, or what you do – because you are the only one who has any say in the matter, and nobody has the right to judge you.  This is not the morality of a cad or a tramp.  Cads and tramps have attacks of conscience.  It is the bland oh-so-self-assured anti-morality of a demon.  It is one hundred proof grain stupidity.  It is distilled evil.  Now, we want to raise children who will do more than say, “I don't agree with that.”  Wonderful enlightenment!  We want to raise children who would look upon anyone who uttered such a thing as they would look upon someone who would fish his food out of a septic tank: incomprehensible, base, inhuman, insane.  That's the negative.  Let me give the positive.  We want to raise children who will understand and cherish the virtues of love and purity.  Those virtues must not remain mere terms or notions.  We must clothe them with flesh and blood.  Consider the following scene from Victor Hugo's masterpiece, Les Miserables.  Two pure young people, Marius and Cosette, have long beheld one another from a distance.  They have fallen in love, and finally, after many months and much seeking, the youth and the maiden meet and speak.  Here is how Hugo describes what they do every evening:

Throughout the month of May . . . in that poor, wild garden, under that shrubbery each day more perfumed and dense, two human beings composed of every chastity and every innocence, overflowing with all the felicities of Heaven, closer to archangels than men, pure, honest, intoxicated, radiant, glowed for each other in the darkness.  It seemed to Cosette that Marius had a crown, and to Marius that Cosette had a halo.  They touched, they gazed at each other, they clasped hands, they pressed close together; but there was a distance they did not pass.  Not that they respected it; they were ignorant of it.  Marius felt a barrier, Cosette's purity, and Cosette had a support, Marius' loyalty.  The first kiss was also the last.  Since then, Marius had not gone beyond touching Cosette's hand, or her scarf, or her curls, with his lips.  Cosette was to him a perfume, and not a woman.  He breathed her.  She refused nothing and he asked nothing.  Cosette was happy, and Marius was satisfied.  They were living in that ravishing condition that might be called the dazzling of one soul by another.  It was that ineffable first embrace of two virginities within the ideal.

Victor Hugo was a man well acquainted with the squalor of the streets, and the wicked things that people do to themselves and one another.  His blood ran hot, not cold – hot with indignation against the wickedness, and hot with greathearted love for what is noblest in man; with what he would call the work of God in man.  Our purveyors of rat poison have not witnessed one hundredth of the miseries and the sins that he witnessed!  But they turn our children's vision to what is dark and dead, and he raises our eyes to the everlasting hills, whence cometh our help.
 We want to raise boys like Marius and girls like Cosette.  We cannot do it with tracts in church teaching and a sermon on Sunday, as needful as those things are.  They may give us the moral, but they do not nourish the imagination.  Without story, without flesh and blood, they flare in the ear but do not ring in the conscience.  Hence the need for art and song, for stories and poetry.  Jesus taught in parables.  These are not just instruments.  They are of the essence.


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Thaddeus Baklinski Thaddeus Baklinski Follow Thaddeus

Medical staff arrested in India after accidentally aborting baby at 8 months

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

A doctor and a nurse at a prominent private hospital in India have been arrested after they allegedly administered abortion drugs to a eight-months pregnant woman accidentally, resulting in the death of her unborn child.

"We have immediately registered a case and arrested the doctor, whose negligent act has caused this," said South Jammu Superintendent of Police Rahul Malik, according to the Hindustan Times.

The woman's husband, Rakesh Sharma, told the paper that the doctor mistook Shruti Sharma for another patient who was scheduled for an abortion at the JK Medicity Hospital in Jammu on Friday afternoon.

Shruti had gone to the hospital after her gynecologist advised a routine medical examination to safeguard her and her baby's health.

Rakesh alleged that the doctor gave his wife the abortion pills without consulting her medical records. “Doctors and paramedical staff instead of administering glucose, gave her abortion medicine, which was actually meant for another patient,” he said.

"It is the worst case of negligence. I feel strongly that such hospitals should be closed. If this has happened to me today, tomorrow it can happen to any body else," Rakesh said.

While the JK Medicity's administration said it has launched an inquiry into the incident, a report from the Jagran Post stated that the district government has revoked the hospital's license.

"Jammu and Kashmir Government has ordered sealing of the private clinic after suspension of its license to operate in the wake of the incident," said Minister for Health and Medical Education Taj Mohiuddin according to the report.

National media have reported that the incident has brought illegal abortion practices in India to the attention of both the public and government officials.

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According to the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, abortion is legal in India up to 20 weeks. However, the opinion of a second doctor is required if the pregnancy is past its 12th week, and abortion-inducing drugs such as mifepristone and misoprostol are allowed only by prescription up until the seventh week of pregnancy.

Moreover, abortions can be performed only in government licensed medical institutions by registered abortionists.

Indian Express reported that the accused in the incident, Dr. Amarjeet Singh, practices ayurvedic medicine (traditional Hindu medicine) and is "unsuitable for carrying out abortions."

A video posted by IndiaTV shows the parents surrounded by family members and relatives at a protest outside the JK Medicity hospital where the group is demanding punishment for those involved in the death of the child.


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Kirsten Andersen Kirsten Andersen Follow Kirsten

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News editor fired for criticizing ‘gay Bible’, files complaint

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By Kirsten Anderson

The former editor-in-chief of Iowa’s Newton Daily News has filed a religious discrimination complaint after he was fired over a post on his private blog criticizing the pro-gay Queen James Bible.

The Bible revision was produced by homosexual activists who claim to have edited the eight most commonly cited verses against homosexual behavior “in a way that makes homophobic interpretations impossible.”

On his private blog, which has since been deactivated, Bob Eschliman wrote in April that “the LGBTQXYZ crowd and the Gaystapo” are trying to reword the Bible “to make their sinful nature ‘right with God.’”

After public outcry from homosexual activists, Shaw Media, which owns the paper, fired him on May 6.

In a statement the day of his firing, Shaw Media President John Rung said Eschliman’s “airing of [his opinion] compromised the reputation of this newspaper and his ability to lead it.”

“There will be some who will criticize our action, and mistakenly cite Mr. Eschliman’s First Amendment rights as a reason he should continue on as editor of the Newton Daily News,” Rung said.  “As previously stated, he has a right to voice his opinion. And we have a right to select an editor who we believe best represents our company and best serves the interests of our readers.”

Rung said the company has a duty “to advocate for the communities we serve” and that “to be effective advocates, we must be able to represent the entire community fairly.”

Eschliman, who has been writing professionally since 1998 and became editor-in-chief of the Newton Daily News in 2012, says that the company was aware of his personal blog when he was hired and never indicated it would be a problem for him to continue sharing his personal political and religious views.

Click "like" if you want to defend true marriage.

In his religious discrimination complaint against the company, filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), he says that he believes he was singled out for termination because of his Christian views concerning homosexuality and same-sex “marriage.”

“As a lifelong writer, I have maintained a personal blog on the Internet with some personal thoughts and writings,” Eschliman wrote. “Newton Daily News, my employer, never had a policy prohibiting personal blogging, Twitter, Facebook, or any other social media. In fact, my employer encouraged us to engage in social media on a personal level and I am aware of several employees of Newton Daily News who continue to blog and are still employed with Shaw Media.”

“There is no question that I was fired for holding and talking about my sincerely held religious beliefs on my personal blog during my off-duty time from the comfort of my own home,” Eschliman wrote. “Shaw Media directly discriminated against me because of my religious beliefs and my identity as an evangelical Christian who believes in Holy Scripture and the Biblical view of marriage.

“Moreover, Shaw Media announced that not only were they firing me based upon my religious beliefs, but that they would not hire or allow anyone to work at Shaw Media who holds religious beliefs similar to mine, which would include an automatic denial of any accommodation of those who share my sincerely held religious beliefs,” he added.

Neither Shaw Media nor the Newton Daily News have been willing to provide further comment to the press on the matter, citing pending litigation.

Matthew Whitaker, an attorney with Liberty Institute who is assisting Eschliman with his complaint, said the law is on his client’s side.

“No one should be fired for simply expressing his religious beliefs,” Whitaker said in a statement. “In America, it is against the law to fire an employee for expressing a religious belief in public.  This kind of religious intolerance by an employer has no place in today’s welcoming workforce.”

According to Whitaker, if the EEOC rules in Eschliman’s favor, Shaw Media could be forced to give him back pay, front pay, and a monetary settlement.


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