‘God is not dead. He isn’t even tired’ – the late, great Dr. Charles E. Rice
A great man died February 25 at the age of 83. I encourage taking the time to enjoy the awesome excerpts further below from the speech which that man, Dr. Charles Rice, gave at Christendom College in 2010. Also included is the first part of a video of that speech. The URLs of the succeeding parts are also noted at the end of this article.
Several times over the years I had met and heard Dr. Charles, or Charlie Rice, as many of us called this unpretentious, friendly and gifted man. The official obituary of Charles Edward Rice gives a wonderful overview of his life, his strong dedication to his family of 10 Children and many grandchildren and his incredible generosity of his time to whoever needed him, at any time of the day or night.
What struck me most about Rice was that he always gave an impressive witness to the fact that an intensely pro-life, faithful male Christian can and should be manly. And yet, Charlie thought little of himself and everything about God and His truth.
He always told it like it is. No apologies. He never avoided necessary battles. That was the reason why he wrote the book No Exception: A Pro-Life Imperative, which went against the established thinking in the pro-life movement for many years and laid the foundation for the Personhood movement.
He served in the US Marine Corps and was a long-time Lt. Col. in the Marine Corps Reserve. Charles is described by Richard Becker, in another article on LifeSite, as having been an “acclaimed author, speaker, and legal scholar, a beloved Notre Dame law professor”.
But he especially struck me as a constant U.S. Marine in a suit, giving Marine-like speeches at pro-life conferences, university convocations and instruction in law at Notre Dame and advising the federal government on education matters. He was a consummate soldier for Christ, for life, for the family. For him, life was a serious call to duty, but not also without a lot of Irish humor.
I’ve met hundreds of pro-life leaders, but no one was quite like Charles E. Rice. He was impossible to forget and left his listeners with much to think about – for years. He had a Marine’s ability to quickly get right to the core of whatever subject he addressed, bluntly lay out the real situation and present the necessary battle plan.
That’s enough from me. The excerpts below are not from his exact prepared text, which most media quoted at the time, but from our full transcript of the speech as he actually delivered it, with humorous asides and spontaneous additions. He loved talking to students, powering them up and giving them confidence for the battles to come in their lives.
This commencement speech took place at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia on May 15, 2010. Charlie Rice has been one of my heroes and I was there with my family for my daughter Bernadette’s graduation from Christendom. I remember it well.
These quotes reveal some of the depth and greatness of Dr. Charles Rice. They confirm how I have described Charlie Rice in my comments. Enjoy!
Click on photo below to view video.
Excerpts from full transcript of recording of May 15, 2010 speech by Dr. Charles E. Rice:
This is a time of crises, it really is. The culture is a mess, the economy is a mess, the government is out of control.
We are living through a transformation of the federal government and it is promoted to a great extent by Catholics.
It’s a transformation where a one-party government, the leader of which was elected with 54 percent of the Catholic vote, is changing our free economy and limited government into a centralized command state of potentially unlimited jurisdiction.
The health care bill that was adopted in Congress was adopted through a level of bribery, coercion and deception that is as open as it was unprecedented in our entire history.
To find a counterpart to this, to find a similar rapid consolidation of power by a legally instituted regime, we have to go back to 1933. Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor on January 30th. For the next weeks he consolidated his power. The decisive event was on March 23, when the Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, which conferred on him full and irrevocable powers. That was the point of no return. The Enabling Act was adopted, it achieved the two-thirds majority it required only because it was supported by the Catholic Centre Party.
Our "Health Care Reform," may be the Enabling Act of our time in terms of the control it gives government over the lives of the people. And when you look at the Enabling Act and you look at the Healthcare Act, and you say what was going on? Think about this. The Healthcare Act includes a federal takeover of student loans. You might ask, "Well, what do student loans have to do, with health care? The common denominator is control. Hence forth, no student will be able to get a guaranteed federally loan without the consent of a federal bureaucrat. This opens the way to this or future administrations to make political loyalty the test of educational advancement, which was what was done in Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
We have the Constitution and we rightly insist on returning to the principles of the constitution. But lets understand – no constitution can survive the disappearance of the morality that produced it.
And when we look at the culture, that you people are going in to, it’s a culture in which the intentional infliction of death upon the innocent is widely regarded as an optional problem-solving technique. Columbine set a precedent. If you don't like your schoolmates, fellow employees or IRS agents, you blow them away. Abortion is the classic example of the execution of the innocent as a problem solving technique.
And this is the culture in which you’re moving and the thing is there is no mystery about it. Fr. Frank Canavan, the great Jesuit from Fordham, said that we are living through "the fag end of the Enlightenment," the dying phase of the effort by philosophers and politicians to build a society without God. And it's based on three lies – they are first- secularism, second- relativism, and third-individualism. These are the components of what Benedict called the "dictatorship of relativism. And your job, for which you're well equipped, here at Christendom, your job is to counter those lies with the truth because those three lies are weapons deployed by Satan, who is our adversary.
On September 24-25, 1789, I remember it well, the First Congress did two things, they adapted the First Amendment and they called on the President to proclaim a national day of prayer. President Washington did so. And the purpose of the First Amendment was to maintain federal government neutrality among sects while preserving the ability of the federal and state governments, not only to affirm the existence of God, but also to pray.
The suspension of judgment on the existence of God, is an establishment of an agnostic secularism. You know what it's based on? Its based on the idea any affirmations of God are non-rational, and that’s a lie.
The existence of God is not self-evident. But it's unreasonable, stupid, not to believe that there was an eternal being that always existed, and had no beginning – that’s God. The alternative is that there was a time when there was nothing.
What do you think of this? This will blow your mind. You walk around, don't get hit by a truck while you're doing it. Think about it. Imagine if you can imagine a time when there was absolutely nothing. And if there was a time when there was absolutely nothing, there couldn’t be anything. How many here have seen The Sound of Music? Yeah, alright, alright.
Remember that scene, down by the lake, where the guy proposes to Julie Andrews? Right? And she thinks that’s pretty neat and she breaks into song? Alright? What did she say? Climactic scene of the whole movie. What did she say? Yeah. She said, "How is this happening to me?" She said, "somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must've done something good." And then the punch line, "Nothing comes from nothing. Nothing ever could." That’s classic Thomas Aquinas.
Every state that has ever existed, has gone out of business or will go out of business. Every human being who has ever been conceived will live forever. That's the basis for transcendent rights. The person does not exist for the State. The State exists for the person. And for the family.
And you're going to be under pressure to be a relativist, to lie, to cheat, to steal. You know from Veritatis Splendor and from common sense, that the negative prohibitions of the Commandments, which are the specifications of the natural law, "allow no exceptions." But you’re gonna pay a price for your fidelity.
But freedom cannot be separated from the truth. Look, you're "free" to choose to put sand in the gas tank of your car. But you will no longer be free to drive your car because you have violated the truth of the nature of your car. You are "free" to lie, to fornicate, to steal, but you will be diminished because you have violated the truth of your nature, and that is very important. The one thing the autonomous individual can never do – think about this, they say, "I can, I'm in charge – he can never put himself out of existence. Whether he likes it or not, he's going to live forever. Where he spends that eternity is up to him.
See we have a, we Catholics have an inferiority complex. We think that the smart guys are the academics who think that something can come from nothing, who are absolutely sure that they can’t be sure of anything and who think that freedom means, their ability, their right to do whatever they want without restriction. And we need to recognize that this generation, this culture has lost not only its faith but also its mind, and what they need is the truth. And they need that truth especially with respect to the right to life.
But there we have a problem. Our pro-life efforts are compromised by our timidity on contraception, the unspoken issue. The Anglican Lambeth Conference was the first time any Christian denomination had ever said that contraception could ever be objectively right.
God, in his wisdom, has chosen to depend on human cooperation for the creation of new citizens for heaven. And the contracepting couple, by altering the nature of the act, deliberately prevent that creation. What they say to God is something like this, and we really have to think about this: they say, "Look, God, for all we know, it may be your will that from this act of ours a new human person will come into existence who will live forever. For all we know, that may be your will. And we won’t let you do it." That's awesome. That is why John Paul said, "contraception is so profoundly wrong as never to be justified. To think or to say the contrary is equal to maintaining that in some situations it is lawful not to deny that God is God."
Catholics practice contraception at the same rate as everybody else. Parishes and schools are closing all over the country in great numbers because of the lack of students and parishioners. A fair response would be respectfully to say: "Most Reverend Bishop or Father, you would not have this problem if you and your predecessors, over the past four decades and still today, had done your job of educating your people as to the evil of contraception and as to the entire positive teaching of the Church on marriage and the gift of life."
Now in 2002, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI… said “People are now starting to pick from the tree of life and make themselves lords of life and death, to reassemble life. Precisely what man was supposed to be protected from is now happening. He is crossing the final boundary. Man makes other men his own artifacts. Man no longer originates in the mystery of love, by conception and birth, but is produced industrially, like any other product," and he continues – I want you to listen to this, "we can be certain of this: God will take action to counter an ultimate crime, an ultimate act of self-destruction, on the part of man. He will take action against the attempt to demean mankind by the production of slave-beings. There are indeed final boundaries we cannot cross."
This is serious business. Nineveh repented, prayed and was spared. Sodom and Gomorrah did not and were destroyed. Those options could be ours.
If we were looking at this whole thing in merely human terms, we would have to say our cause is hopeless. But we don’t do that. We don't rely on our own strength. And we don’t know everything.
St. Maximilian Kolbe said – and listen don’t be discouraged when bad things happen. As Maximilian Kolbe said "God permits everything in view of a greater blessing."
So we are in a great time. It’s a great time to be coming out of this great college. We are in the winning side, we know that. We trust God.
God is not dead. He isn’t even tired.
See the transcript of the full talk by Dr. Rice. The above are only some of the memorable gems he presented during the talk.
Videos from which transcript was compiled:
YouTube video part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0v52JJc3Cik
YouTube video part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4jVIr4_sb0
YouTube video part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_iW_EZYID3g
YouTube video part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTRZ4eAwgh
Many thanks to Mark Pinto of Toronto for his work in transcribing the talk from the video audio.