Catholic Identity, Contraception, Life Ethics, Abortion, Presidential Politics and the Collapse of American Civilization
by Frank Wynerth Summers III on Saturday, March 10, 2012 at 9:57am ·
t will not be a big surprise to most of you who know me that I am on occasion quite an angry man. There is a great deal that I find to be angry about in this world. I have little reason to hide that fact and am much more likely regret the times I have not expressed my anger than the times I have expressed it when I look back on my life thus far. In terms of reasons to be angry I have no shortage of such things. However, I am ready for a chance to reflect on the uncertainty of the situation of the Catholic Church in America. Penn State assisstant coach Jerry Sandusky’s apprehension did not lead to careful discussion of how the male only world of College football locker room inevitably leads to homosexual pedophilia. That is in stark contrast to what is often said when a Catholic priest has committed such crimes. There are many coaches and teachers in the secular systems committing criminal acts against children which will never come to light unless the systems that protect them are breached. We live in an age where outrage itself is not always clearly in the right place:
I think pedophilia is disordered but there are many levels of disorder. I think pedophilia is morally wrong but morality and its breaches have levels of gravity too. There is a long video on the web today which is publicizing child abuse on a large scale and if you get to watch it maybe you should do so after finishing this note. Here is the link, if any links do not work you should be able to drag them to your search bar and make them work or copy and paste them there:
There are many questions I have about the events described in the video. But even if their point of view about the LRA is mistaken in some way or another it is still clear how much better off those particular kids would probably be in a fairly well run occupied colonial system or in slavery in a relatively good society. The evil chaos in the world is an ongoing story we do not focus on very well. We have destroyed the fabric that holds things together and replaced it with free operation for chaotic elements. I have made similar comments about calamities that have occurred among North East Asians and Caucasians. It is not that I think race is not relevant to understanding famines in the Horn of Africa, the genocide in Rwanda, the horrors of the LRA and the horrors of their enemies in the government in Uganda. I certainly think having a head of state who identifies as a member of the black race in the United States is a very bad thing for our country but the race issue is not the principal issue here. The principal issue is how all of modern society values mere avoidance of responsibility by punishing organized groups and power structures for smaller faults and feeling very little responsibility for the evils that grow up in structures without aspirations to civilization. In so many ways we live in a Viking age. Like the Vikings that gave Barack Hussein Obama a Nobel Peace Prize. We live in an age of highly complex and technical savagery and not a civilized age.
Many Americans who are unaware that the world is collapsing into savage idiocy believe all sorts of ridiculous crap about the Catholic Church. The Church is a real religion which many of them have become unable to deal with or understand. Because of this fact of it being a real faith they think it is equivalent to some reactionary anti-intellectual religious community of Protestant Fundamentalists. The sad truth is that these secular intellectuals are themselves more often than not fundamentalist hate-mongering ignoramuses promoting a secular religion they do not intellectually understand. First, it is tragic that some people think that the Roman Catholic Church is today not an intellectually formidable institution. This is the most rich human artifact one can find. For those who really may not know what the attitudes of the Catholic Church are to science and learning I highly recommend spending some time with the websites I have listed here which are a truly miniscule percentage of the total Catholic infrastructure of and for higher human knowledge.
The contraception issue that has just been in the news has brought up questions of American Catholicism and how Catholics will vote. I think that there can never be a time when I will not be interested in how the Catholics of the United states relate to things politically. Do I think that Catholics have a special poilitcal sensibility or that they should have one? Yes, I do think so, on both counts. Most American Catholics who are sexually active use, or have used or will use contraception regularly at some time in their lives. Many of them believe the Church must change its official position on the issue over time. However, many of those who use contraception, believe the Church must change its official position over time and have been involved in some way in spreading that viewpoint do not want the Church to throw the baby out with the bathwater. They do not want a church that allows their children to grow up thinking a pregnancy is a disease. They do not want their young men to grow up believing it is perfectly normal to have sex with a young woman he is not committed to and have her believe she alone is at fault if a pregnancy occurs and that marriage ought not to be considered. They do not want teenage forgetfulness to provide a huge boon to abortion mills. They do not want young women to separate motherhood entirely from their sexual drives and fantasies.
Some Catholics of the type I described above think America is a pretty decent place. Some think it is an increasingly irresponsible moral sewer. Some found the Clinton affairs reported to them much more a matter of being grossed out at the tawdriness of our head of state than being shocked by his moral lapses. Sex without flowers, furtive hotel rooms and many other signs of ilicit affection were enough to make Monica Lewinski fall in love. Many of the other women seem to have felt closer to being raped and perhaps in the case of the Flowers scandal there was still a bit of humanity left over in the whole thing which only barely emerged in the case of Lewinski and was absent with Jones and others. Many American Catholics know beyond all shadow of a doubt that American culture is no place to turn for moral guidance. So moral teachings of the Church provide identity for Catholics who may not agree with exact formulations of doctrine and even reject their moral validity as a matter of conscience. Then, as Americans, these same people believe that America was a place where citizens could find moral guidance in traditions outside an all-coercive state. If there were any reasonable political discourse I think those in it would see that our system is largely insane and morally depraved.
I think that we have to deal with the issue of identity as human beings. Humans are not intended to identify themselves only as humans. People are not conditioned by their genes or natural propensities to exist only as humans. It is also not absolutely clear what and how the other identities are designed to work in human society. However, mother and child, siblings, marriages, families, faith communities,race and various types of states and nations are among the entities with which humans identify that matter to and shape people. One of the things that humans value is their identity. This is a very universal thing and I hope that everyone who is not Catholic nor American who may read this Facebook note will still be able to relate to many aspects of what I am discussing here. In this note you may find some illustrations which you can interpret for other groups. In Addition Catholic Americans are an important group. I am also going to briefly discuss both Protestant and Jewish American political identity as they suggest themselves for discussion in this note.
I think that this is a year Catholics in the United States are dealing with issues of identity as Catholic Americans. I have heard repeatedly that Rick Santorum has failed to win the plurality of the Catholic vote in any state’s Republican primary so far and has often received fewer of these voters than non Catholics like Romney and Paul. Gingrich is a convert to Catholicism. I do not know where Gingrich has won the Catholic Vote.
I have lived in many countries that were not in any sense Catholic countries as well as in countries that were Catholic in one sense or another and where people were discussing and disputing what that Catholic quality of their country meant. I think that in thinking clearly about Catholic identity in America one can reach a better understanding of many other important issues. There is a great deal of horror for me in American life and society. In fact I rate the horror thing high in my total sense of what is going on in the world. In fact it is increasingly most of what I feel. However, it is not a simplistic horror. I want to discuss some of these issues here. In this context of American Catholicism there are many historic events which cannot be easily forgotten by the very knowledgeable and a handful of events which are very well known. John F. Kennedy’s campaign and Presidency were certainly very much aware of and in the shadow of Al Smith’s campaign for president which had a great deal of importance among the Catholic Boston Irish and some of the other ethnic groups made up mostly of Roman Catholics in the Democratic party in the states of America’s North East. However while Smith running against Prohibition may have galvanized many Catholics, John F. Kennedy and his family loomed larger in American Catholic politics than anyone else ever has. Some Catholic Cubans may have wished he was more supportive of the Bay of Pigs and may have wished him harm for coddling Castro. Some Catholic Acadians and Creoles who disliked the Jim Crow Segregation system may still have resented his enforcing the madness of court-run integration which was sure to be an unsound and insane combination of social engineeering policies which could not but succeed in ruining the country and their own piece of it. Yet in these communities, some of which may have wished the President and his brother great harm, it might be hard for an outsider to understand but almost all of them accepted Kennedy as a real and in a sense useful symbol of Catholic, American political identity. Why was Kennedy so well accepted as Catholic politician?
There are some very unfortunate things about the Catholic identity politics of our own exact era. These things affect us all in our political identity and behavior. One of the problems we have is that our country is in need of many remedies from within the Catholic tradition. Yet the Catholic church is less than effective in providing to our society the remedies which it needs. John F. Kennedy was from a family which had contributed a good nit of money and talent on its own to Catholic churches and entities which in turn provided healthcare, education, eldercare and foreign aid where it was needed — my guess is Catholics still favor that idea and practice in pretty sizable numbers. John F. Kennedy had a sense of attachement to an extended family and through that lense connected to the larer society and thus resisted the tendency to tie society to a model of the individual and the State alone — my guess is Catholics still favor that idea and practice in pretty sizable numbers. The Kennedys had a devotion to and knowledge of both American history and the the history of their own roots as Irish Catholics that was fairly impressive — my guess is Catholics still favor that idea and practice in pretty sizable numbers. The Kennedys had, in the person of JFK, the good sense to marry a young woman who brought the sense of style and panache to the White House which were apropriate for a great power. Many Americans worried that Kennedy would take orders from the Vatican. However, what in fact the Kennedys did was to take the United States a few baby steps in the direction of making the secular grandeur of the USA’s executive a credible “second sword” competitor to the “first sword” voice of the Church even if it is as grand, noble and magnificent as the full splendor of the Roman Catholic Church — my guess is Catholics still favor that idea and practice in pretty sizable numbers.
So despite all the diversity and variety among American Catholics there was a sense that the Kennedys embodied certain qualities that a Catholic Head of State ought to have. Other Americans were attracted to Kennedy for other reasons. Some were attracted to him for some of the same reasons, but he did bring some things to this country which are both fairly subtle and yet more than subtly Catholic. Political consciousness among Americans and American Catholics is a more difficult subject than understanding the political consciousness of most countries. Understanding political consciousness anywhere is difficult.
Today the Catholic church as a public institution capable of inspiring political activity is most associated with the issue of abortion in much of the United States and now with the issue of contraception in the context of Catholic charities being forced to pay for contraception by government mandate. That is the way things have turned out. Even the most pro-life person should be able to admit that there are isssues of privacy and subsidiarity in our tradition and canon law which make dealing with abortion much different than dealing eith other forms of widespread killing. The educted should know that there are lies about formal automatic excommunication which have been widely publicized. The cynical should know that not everyone in the pro-life movement cares about any life ethic at all. a sizable minority have very bad political motives that go against all Catholic teaching. The Church can influence politics but it is not authorized to become a spasmodic cheerleader for an idiotic single sight police force of liars and sometimes that would be fair characterization. I believe abortion on demand is toxic to our culture, bad for women, rotting at our social fabric and that America’s descent into moral idiocy is hastened by it. However, I do not think the Federal government is the right place to ban all access to abortions. The states for one thing do define which kinds of killing are civil torts, negligent and reckeless crimes and which are murders. The States usually decide which killings are excusable and which are justifiable under law. The law is only a crude aproximation of morality. The fact that none of these issues resonate with either side is evidence of how depraved our politics really are. It is ridiculous to assume the noble motives of freedom and preserving innocent life which either side calls out for means a hill of beans in why they use the approaches they seek. The truth is that there are mountains of evidence that laziness and hate have more to do with the method than the causes they claim to have such paasion for. There is a great deal of unfreedom and a great deal of innocent killing which are beyond controversy that most people on either side feel little need to address. I believe this is just one of many areas where our structure is broken.
So what are my personal opionions about the entirety of the contraception contraversy? They go far beyond what I will get to in this note but I can at least start to lay out the scheme and shape of these ideas here.
1. There must be an understanding that America is in deep political crisis for this situation to emerge as the conflict that it did. However, given the loose and irresponsible ideas that prevail everywhere it is not surprising. Thos ewho know me no that despite feeling very little exuberance about my life or achievements I do have a high regard for my own opinions.
2. Sex, pregnancy and childbirth are very important for civilization, for individuals and for families.
3. Population is an important legal and social issue.
4. America has a tradition of a Federal government with very limited powers of personal coercion.
5. Under the political theory in which our country was founded this would be a domestic issue which was for the States only. However, this system is so profoundly corrupt in this country that there is not much use discussing this theory unless we have a huge constitutional movement.
I will just leave these ideas unrelated and unresolved. It is not my goal to predict which party will win on this issue in the coming election. My own political circle may be among the most diverse in the world and as a result of that may have little to do with what happens in our election of a President. I myself am an independent.
In the development of the American future there are many issues of ethnicity, religion and sex which are relevant and cannot be ignored. Jews and Hebrews (two groups with great overlap which are not identical) have contributed an enormous amount to building this country and this country has been vital in the process of rebuilding the long destroyed Israel which can help to heal some real wouds in Jewish and Hebrew identity and culture. If the truth is not admitted that Jews have been adveresly affected in some ways by thousands of years of mistreatment of varied kinds then we will no0t understand one of the influnces on our culture. Nothern Europe and much of the West has long accepted a caricature of the jews which still determines how their culture is understood. The Jews have in various ways often adopted this horrific and toxic identity. America is a place where a truth about Jewish identity can spread. American Protestant often despite themselves have preserved a real appreciation of the Hebrew, Greek and even hated Latin contributions to Christianity and civilization they have no idea how vile the real thinking of many of their correligionists is not only about Judaism but about so much of culture. Those who are true Nothern European Americans will have to learn some of the self criticsim their ethnic group avoids so mightily and ridiculously in their homelands.
This is not a federation of super nice people. This is a federation of real people. This is a federation approaching cultural bankruptcy. We have a limited time to come to grips with this. The same car one can drive for decades is able to be completely destroyed in afew seconds of bad driving. One thing Americans need to understand is that our Pope (who is not a man who inspires me as a fan because mostly of his country’s activities for a period of twelve years when he was a child) speaks in a way which emphasizes moral consciousness that is a different langauage than the language of secular law. American Catholicism is owed more by this country than it can even calculate. But America has a long and proud tradition of not paying its moral debts. I will say that I was pleased by the number of Protestant ministers and Jewish Rabbis who supported the USCCB when they objected to the abuse they felt in this matter. I wish I could believe that this solidarity was enought to lead to a better future, I do not. But it was a bright and shining moment.
I have at one time or another dated courted a significant though small percentage number of women who are now on my Facebook list and more who are not. I have never been the paragon of sexual or romanitc popularity but among the many reasons I am increasingly isolated myself is that I think sexual custom in the broadest sense in this country is a bit of a train wreck. That is not going to be openly admitted by many men. But that does not mean that no ther men find our sexual environment fairly toxic. For every man who finds it a bit like having sex in a train station at ruch hour their are probably a hundred women who feel that way. Not all Americans find the “no nonsense” view of sex in our government and media not to be nonsense.
Like many of my notes this is more the subject of a book than a brief essay. Like all other cases I will just stop writing.