George Neumayr

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‘Progressivism’: the greatest source of death and terror in the twentieth century

George Neumayr
By George Neumayr
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Editor's Note: The terms "progressive" and "progressivism" are being widely used in the secular and religious worlds. Most people hearing these words have no idea of their manipulative context and what many who use them actually intend them to mean. "Progressivism" has a political/historical background that must be understood by pro-life, pro-family people and people of faith in order to prevent them from falling prey to its dangerous agendas. We asked George Neumayr to write this instructive piece for the benefit of all LifeSiteNews readers. After reading this you will better understand the need to question anyone referring to "progressive" ideas or calling someone "progressive."

February 14, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The English author George Orwell wrote that “political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” In the history of manipulative political language, the term “progressive” surely occupies a high place.

The term is used incessantly to describe policies, political figures, and churchmen, among others, whom a liberal elite deem enlightened. Through repetitive use of “progressive,” modern liberals have hoped to gull the public into equating progressive with progress. But no such equation is justified. The gulf between the rhetoric of “progress” and the reality of progress is glaring.

The darkness of the twentieth century is sufficient to dissuade anyone from confusing “progressive” with progress. Its vilest ideologies were all presented as “progressive.” In the name of bettering humanity, self-described progressives felt emboldened to “progress” beyond the most basic precepts of reason and the natural law.

While some causes labeled “progressive” in the twentieth century qualify as either innocuous or at least debatable, many were unmistakably evil. The century’s eugenic schemes, for example, came not from so-called reactionaries but from proud self-described progressives. The West’s leading judges and university presidents championed eugenics openly before World War II.

In the 1920s, Oliver Wendell Holmes, considered a pillar of progressivism, thought nothing of calling for widespread sterilization of whomever the elite considered inferior. After all, he wrote, “It is better for all the world if, instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for the crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those who are manifestly unfit from continuing their kind.... Three generations of imbeciles are enough.”

Long before Hitler’s Final Solution, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was writing about eliminating the “feeble-minded” and undesirable minorities. Long before the architects of Obamacare conceived of death panels for the elderly, the playwright George Bernard Shaw, a darling of progressives, blithely proposed extermination panels: “You must all know half a dozen people at least who are no use in this world, who are more trouble than they are worth. Just put them there and say Sir, or Madam, now will you be kind enough to justify your existence?”

“Progressive” California, the epicenter of eugenics in the 20th century, didn’t pick up its schemes from Hitler’s Germany. Rather, bloodless German social engineers picked up their eugenic ideas from California. Edwin Black, the author of War Against the Weak, has noted, “Only after eugenics became entrenched in the United States was the campaign transplanted into Germany, in no small measure through the efforts of California eugenicists, who published booklets idealizing sterilization and circulated them to German official and scientists.”

Supposedly progressive places like Pasadena and Palo Alto (Stanford’s president in the early twentieth century, David Starr Jordan, was a loud proponent of eugenics) were beacons of enlightenment in Hitler’s eyes, according to Black:

Hitler studied American eugenics laws. He tried to legitimize his anti-Semitism by medicalizing it, and wrapping it in the more palatable pseudoscientific facade of eugenics. Hitler was able to recruit more followers among reasonable Germans by claiming that science was on his side. While Hitler's race hatred sprung from his own mind, the intellectual outlines of the eugenics Hitler adopted in 1924 were made in America. During the '20s, Carnegie Institution eugenic scientists cultivated deep personal and professional relationships with Germany's fascist eugenicists. In Mein Kampf, published in 1924, Hitler quoted American eugenic ideology and openly displayed a thorough knowledge of American eugenics. "There is today one state," wrote Hitler, "in which at least weak beginnings toward a better conception [of immigration] are noticeable. Of course, it is not our model German Republic, but the United States."

Self-described progressives also entangled themselves in the roots of Russian communism.  “I have seen the future and it works,” remarked the journalist Lincoln Steffens after visiting Russia in 1921. Bolshevism and progress were viewed as one and the same.

“Most liberals saw the Bolsheviks as a popular and progressive movement,” wrote Jonah Goldberg in Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left. “Nearly the entire liberal elite, including much of FDR's Brain Trust, made the pilgrimage to Moscow to take admiring notes on the Soviet experiment.”

In view of this dark history, contemporary uses of “progressive” should merit the greatest suspicion. Indeed, one might have expected the word to fade away. Instead, it has enjoyed a revival.  To many politicians and journalists, “progressive” now sounds better than “liberal.”

In 2007, at a debate during the Democratic presidential primaries, Hillary Clinton declined to call herself a liberal and chose instead to call herself a progressive. She explained:

I prefer the word 'progressive,' which has a real American meaning, going back to the Progressive Era at the beginning of the 20th century. I consider myself a modern progressive – someone who believes strongly in individual rights and freedoms, who believes that we are better as a society when we're working together and when we find ways to help those who may not have all the advantages in life, get the tools they need to lead a more productive life for themselves and their family. So I consider myself a proud modern American progressive, and I think that's the kind of philosophy and practice that we need to bring back to American politics.

Her vague definition of progressive makes it sounds wholesome and harmless, as if progressives stand for nothing more than up-to-date food inspection standards and a robust civil society.  In truth, progressivism sparks off secularist and socialist notions of human perfectibility and social engineering divorced from God and the natural moral law that have proven disastrous for the human race.

If progressivism is difficult to define, that’s because it rests on nothing more than the ever-changing will of man. It has no criterion of progress apart from whatever those in power call “progress.” The false and empty philosophy underlying it allows for the most sinister forms of subjectivism and ideologies of power.

Of course, self-described progressives would like the public to believe that their political, economic, and religious ideas have the same proven character and measurability as technological progress. They push the idea that society will improve under “progressive” politics, economics, and religion to the same extent that, say, computers have improved under measurable and undeniable technological progress.

That assumption drives progressivism, but it has no sound philosophical basis. Equally unsound is what C.S. Lewis called the “chronological snobbery” built into progressivism—“the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.” A true idea does not cease to be true simply because those in power no longer hold it.

The irony of progressivism is that its policies almost always entail a return to the bad ideas and corrupt practices of ancient times. It is old barbarism in a new guise. What exactly is new about euthanizing the elderly, killing babies, celebrating promiscuity, and so forth? Even its more sophisticated notions of a “living Constitution” and a collectivist federal government (ideas which are hallmarks of the American Progressive movement) are simply glorified versions of tyrannies well known to the ancients. 

The term progressive invariably attaches itself to policies that might have even made debauched pagans blush. Self-described “progressive” Democrats, for example, have no qualms about extending the term to openly brutal practices like partial-birth abortion. Barack Obama, who takes pride in the term “progressive,” couldn’t even bring himself to oppose laws against infanticide as a state senator in Illinois.

In ordinary language, progress refers to the gradual improvement of a thing. In its political and religious uses, “progressive” more often than not refers to regressive and primitive practices and ideas that deform life and undermine the development of civilization. 

As C.S. Lewis pointed out, the truly progressive person is the one who stands athwart a false idea, whatever its labeling, and moves in the direction of truth.

“Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be,” he wrote. “And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

Authentic progress, in other words, is inseparable from the truth about the good of man. Any ideology with a criterion of progress not rooted in that truth can only mean gradual corruption and disorientation.  As evident in the mania for gay marriage in the West, “progress” is now defined not by greater and greater adherence to the natural moral law but by the natural law’s total abolition.

Similarly, the media’s understanding of “progress” in the Catholic Church is not measured by growing adherence to holiness and truth but by departures from them. It crowns churchmen “progressive” if they appear to be substituting modern liberalism for orthodoxy.

The incorporation of modern liberalism into Catholicism is the destination point toward which “progressives,” both inside and outside the Church, wish to go.

Moving beyond “truth and falsehood” into an alliance with the “world” is the antithesis of the Church’s mission. But progressives, such as Hans Kung or the leading dissident National Catholic Reporter paper in the US, drawing upon a Darwinian conceit, will always claim that the latest development, whether in religion or politics, is the best one. All changes are cast as perfective, not destructive.

Bitter experience should have taught the public by now that “change you can believe in,” as Obama put it, is usually an alarming mutation. “Progress,” as applied to politics and religion, falls into Orwell’s category of self-serving rhetoric designed to silence opposition to whatever is under proposal. It should at the very least invite skepticism, not submission.

To paraphrase Lincoln Steffens, we have seen the future under progressivism and it clearly doesn’t work.

George Neumayr is a contributing editor to The American Spectator and co-author of No Higher Power: Obama’s War on Religious Freedom.

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Lisa Bourne

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Pressure mounts as Catholic Relief Services fails to act on VP in gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne
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Rick Estridge, Catholic Relief Services' Vice President of Overseas Finance, is in a same-sex "marriage," public records show. Twitter

BALTIMORE, MD, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Nearly a week after news broke that a Catholic Relief Services vice president had contracted a homosexual “marriage” while also publicly promoting homosexuality on social media in conflict with Church teaching, the US Bishops international relief agency has taken no apparent steps to address the matter and is also not talking.

CRS Vice President of Overseas Finance Rick Estridge entered into a homosexual “marriage” in Maryland the same month in 2013 that he was promoted by CRS to vice president, public records show.

Despite repeated efforts at a response, CRS has not acknowledged LifeSiteNews’ inquiries during the week. And the agency told ChurchMilitant.com Thursday that no action had been taken beyond discussion of the situation and CRS would have no further comment.

"Nothing has changed,” CRS Senior Manager for Communications Tom said. “No further statement will be made."

LifeSiteNews first contacted CRS for a response prior to the April 20 release of the report and did not receive a reply, however Estridge’s Facebook and LinkeIn profiles were then removed just prior to the report’s release.

CRS also did not acknowledge LifeSiteNews’ follow-up inquiry later in the week.

“Having an executive who publicly celebrates a moral abomination shows the ineffectiveness of CRS' Catholic identity training,” Lepanto Institute President Michael Hichborn told LifeSiteNews. “How many others who hate Catholic moral teaching work at CRS?”

CRS did admit it was aware Estridge was in a “same-sex civil marriage” to Catholic News Agency (CNA) Monday afternoon, and confirmed he was VP of Overseas Finance and had been with CRS for 16 years.

“At this point we are in deliberations on this matter,” Price told CNA that day.

ChurchMilitant.com also reported that according to its sources, it was a well-known fact at CRS headquarters in Baltimore that Estridge was in a homosexual “marriage.” 

“There is no way CRS didn't know one of its executives entered into a mock-marriage until we broke the story,” Hichborn said. “The implication is clear; CRS top brass had no problem with having an executive so deliberately flouting Catholic moral teaching.”

“The big question is,” Hichborn continued, “what other morally repugnant matters is CRS comfortable with?”

While the wait continues for the Bishops’ relief organization to address the matter, those behind the report and other critics of prior instances of CRS involvement in programs and groups that violate Church principles continue to call for a thorough and independent review of the agency programs and personnel.

“How long should it take to call an employee into your office, tell him that his behavior is incompatible with the mission of the organization, and ask for his resignation?” asked Population Research Institute President Steven Mosher. “About thirty minutes, I would say.”

“The Catholic identity of CRS is at stake,” Hichborn stated. “If CRS does nothing, then there is no way faithful Catholics can trust the integrity of CRS's programs or desire to make its Catholicity preeminent.” 

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Thousands of marriage activists gathered in D.C. June 19, 2014 for the 2nd March for Marriage. Dustin Siggins / LifeSiteNews.com
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Watch the March for Marriage online—only at LifeSiteNews

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- At noon on Saturday, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) and dozens of cosponsors, coalition partners, and speakers will launch the third annual March for Marriage. Thousands of people are expected to take place in this important event to show the support real marriage has among the American people.

As the sole media sponsor of the March, LifeSiteNews is proud to exclusively livestream the March. Click here to see the rally at noon Eastern Time near the U.S. Capitol, and the March to the Supreme Court at 1:00 Eastern Time.

And don't forget to pray that God's Will is done on Tuesday, when the Supreme Court hears arguments about marriage!

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Hillary Clinton: ‘Religious beliefs’ against abortion ‘have to be changed’

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By Ben Johnson

NEW YORK CITY, April 24, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Speaking to an influential gathering in New York City on Thursday, Hillary Clinton declared that “religious beliefs” that condemn "reproductive rights," “have to be changed.”

“Yes, we've cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too many women are still denied critical access to reproductive health,” Hillary told the Women in the World Summit yesterday.

Liberal politicians use “reproductive health” as a blanket term that includes abortion. However, Hillary's reference echoes National Organization for Women (NOW) president Terry O’Neill's op-ed from last May that called abortion “an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.”

The Democratic presidential hopeful added that governments should throw the power of state coercion behind the effort to redefine traditional religious dogmas.

“Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources, and political will,” she said. “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs, and structural biases have to be changed.”

The line received rousing applause at the feminist conference, hosted in Manhattan's Lincoln Center by Tina Brown.

She also cited religious-based objections to the HHS mandate, funding Planned Parenthood, and the homosexual and transgender agenda as obstacles that the government must defeat.

“America moves ahead when all women are guaranteed the right to make their own health care choices, not when those choices are taken away by an employer like Hobby Lobby,” she said. The Supreme Court ruled last year that closely held corporations had the right to opt out of the provision of ObamaCare requiring them to provide abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives, and sterilization to employees with no co-pay – a mandate that violates the teachings of the Catholic Church and other Christian bodies.

Clinton lamented that “there are those who offer themselves as leaders...who would defund the country's leading provider of family planning,” Planned Parenthood, “and want to let health insurance companies once again charge women just because of our gender.”

“We move forward when gay and transgender women are embraced...not fired from good jobs because of who they love or who they are,” she added.

It is not the first time the former first lady had said that liberal social policies should displace religious views. In a December 2011 speech in Geneva, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said perhaps the “most challenging issue arises when people cite religious or cultural values as a reason to violate or not to protect the human rights of LGBT citizens.” These objections, she said, are “not unlike the justification offered for violent practices towards women like honor killings, widow burning, or female genital mutilation.”

While opinions on homosexuality are “still evolving,” in time “we came to learn that no [religious] practice or tradition trumps the human rights that belong to all of us.”

Her views, if outside the American political mainstream, have been supported by the United Nations. The UN Population Fund stated in its 2012 annual report that religious objections to abortion-inducing drugs had to be overcome. According to the UNFPA report, “‘duty-bearers’ (governments and others)” have a responsibility to assure that all forms of contraception – including sterilization and abortion-inducing ‘emergency contraception’ – are viewed as acceptable – “But if they are not acceptable for cultural, religious or other reasons, they will not be used.”

Two years later, the United Nations' Committee on the Rights of the Child instructed the Vatican last February that the Catholic Church should amend canon law “relating to abortion with a view to identifying circumstances under which access to abortion services may be permitted.”

At Thursday's speech, Hillary called the legal, state-enforced implementation of feminist politics “the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” which must be accomplished “not just for women but for everyone — and not just in far away countries but right here in the United States.”

“These are not just women's fights. These have to be America's fights and the world's fights,” she said. “There's still much to be done in our own country, much more to be done around the world, but I'm confident and optimistic that if we get to work, we will get it done together.”

American critics called Clinton's suggestion that a nation founded upon freedom of religion begin using state force to change religious practices unprecedented.

“Never before have we seen a presidential candidate be this bold about directly confronting the Catholic Church's teachings on abortion,” said Bill Donohue of the Catholic League.

“In one sense, this shows just how extreme the pro-abortion caucus actually is,” Ed Morrissey writes at HotAir.com. “Running for president on the basis of promising to use the power of government to change 'deep seated cultural codes [and] religious beliefs' might be the most honest progressive slogan in history.”

He hoped that, now that she had called for governments to change religious doctrines, “voters will now see the real Hillary Clinton, the one who dismisses their faith just the same as Obama did, and this time publicly rather than in a private fundraiser.”

Donohue asked Hillary “to take the next step and tell us exactly what she plans to do about delivering on her pledge. Not only would practicing Catholics like to know, so would Evangelicals, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and all those who value life from conception to natural death.”

You may watch Hillary's speech below.

Her comments on religion begin at approximately 9:00. 

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