Friday, April 11, 2008

Personal Asides: Paulson and George, Separated at Birth, Entirely Different…The `60’s Defining Moment V: The Environment—1969. Commentaries…Oops I Forgot: The `60’s Defining Moment VI: “Secular City” 1965.


Paulson and George.

As you can see, Treasury Secretary Henry (Hank) Paulson and Francis Cardinal George were born twins. One made almost $1 billion as head of Goldman Sachs in the relatively free market, has become George W. Bush’s treasury chief. The other with Ph.Ds in theology and philosophy presides over the archdiocese of Chicago. Both have the same amount of hair—but they are as different as possible to be. One is entirely free market. The other is moderately pro-regulation. Guess which is which.

The one you’d expect to be laissez-faire…the pro-Wall Street advocate of free markets, Paulson… has just proposed a plan that sends the feds into the market swiftly when traders err and their markets collapse. He is asking Congress for greater authority to intervene in trading activities of investment banks so as to do what he did to Bear-Stearns to be applied in the case of what he calls “systemic risk” i.e. the danger of market meltdown. It has been called the most drastic intervention in U.S. fiscal history.

The one you would imagine would be more pro-regulation…the bishop who like all his colleagues has been commanded to see that all members should believe the truths propounded by the apostles and their successors and confess what they believe…is totally laissez-faire. There are three powers inherent in the episcopacy: (1) the power to administer the sacraments…(2) the power to teach authoritatively the revealed truth…and (3) the right to govern and direct the people of God according to norms of worship and conduct binding on the faithful. Especially with No. 3 you would expect to see more discipline in the Chicago episcopacy than from a free-market Republican secretary. Wrongo.

That’s where the twins are different. The episcopacy is very laissez-faire. Let a scandal erupt with priests violating children and while it’s deplored and change is pledged, violations occur again—but that’s okay. Let the lay chancellor who, it had been assumed, had supervision over these things but who, it seems, didn’t and he gets promoted—that’s okay. Let everyone who had anything to do with Fr. Dan McCormack’s training in seminary and his ordination and who failed be promoted—and that’s okay. Let a seminary rector who approved ordination of McCormack be promoted to auxiliary bishop—and that’s okay. Let him say as Bishop of Tucson that he would still ordain McCormack if he had to do it all over again and be tapped to be elected second in rank among all the bishops of the United States on a slate approved by the Chicago archbishop—and that’s okay.

Let Mercy Home for Boys & Girls which is directly under the archdiocese’s jurisdiction invite Hillary Clinton to address its fund-raising—and that’s okay. Let DePaul University which carries the title “Catholic” with the permission of the archbishop teach kids Queer Studies 101 on how to be introduced to homosexual sex—and that’s okay. Let the university president reject the archbishop’s views on communicating on homosexuality while still keeping the designation Catholic for his school—and that’s okay.

Let Fr. Michael Pfleger a priest of the archdiocese and a pastor invite Al Sharpton and a host of other Democratic candidates who espouse abortion and gay rights in opposition to the church to speak at St. Sabina’s in violation of the IRS—and that’s okay. Let Fr. Pfleger go to a legally run gun shop and threaten on TV to drag the owner outside “like a rat” and snuff him out when the gun shop owner has violated no law and is within the precincts of the 2nd amendment—and that’s okay. Let Fr. Pfleger go to Trinity United Church of Christ and shout “how dare people” criticize its pastor for saying God damn the United States—and that’s okay.

Let Fr. Pfleger go to Springfield and address a rally where Pfleger urges the defeat of all state lawmakers who oppose his specified “gun control”—in violation of the non-profit clause of the IRS granted to churches—and that’s okay. Let Fr. Andrew Greeley, an archdiocesan priest, in newspaper columns mock the supposed fallibility of the Holy Spirit in selecting popes, endorse contraception and women priests in violation of church tenets—and that’s okay. Correction: not just okay but Greeley gets to take the Cardinal to dinner and the opera on occasion--very okay.

But don’t get the idea there are no limits to this ecclesial laissez-faire. Let one dare to write about these instances and it’s not okay. He is hauled down to Superior street and chastised and following that calls are made diocese-wide to shut him up including to people he works with. That’s okay.

Just so you don’t think that in this archdiocese there are no rules at all. There are and you’d better believe there are.

`60’s Defining Moment No. V: Environmentalism: 1969.

Thank you all for your exceedingly good commentaries on the rise of environmentalism in 1969—particularly from our super-star Frank Nofsinger plus Matt Nelson (outstanding), Dan Kelley (superb) and Pat Hickey (his on Greeley but still very-very good).

You’re all correct. I think I wrote about a lot of it yesterday but suffice it to say that while much of environmentalism makes common sense, the pernicious trait of politicized environmentalism is to allege that people are pollutant which plays hand-in-glove with other liberal ideas that have wreaked so much damage and have taken command of the Democratic party. As the Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg has shown in repeated studies, life expectancy is increasing on a global basis including in the Third World…air and water in the developed world are cleaner than they were 500 years ago—indeed much cleaner than when I was a boy…chemical poisoning of the earth is maliciously exaggerated…food and energy are cheaper…overpopulation is a myth—if anything our own country’s population is declining were it not for immigration and the global outlook is one of great human prosperity.

Now to a sixth and final development in the 60s—one which I overlooked and which should have come before Environmentalism. It is the havoc caused by a book which you may not have read but heard of…but in fact you have all been influenced by it with modernization of religion. Let me summarize the book which is

`60’s Defining Moment No. VI: “The Secular City” 1965.

It is what has happened to the once stable mainline Protestant churches, formerly a bulwark of societal stability: the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Lutheran (some of which remains). . It was largely done in by a book now largely ignored but which in 1965 was all the rage—“The Secular City” by Harvey Cox. His prescription was duplicated in my own Catholic church by a man I have made rather notorious among the few who read this website—Fr. Godfrey Diekmann OSB of my own St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minn. Let me define what the Protestant theologian Cox—still alive but now largely forgotten—maintained. Harvey Cox is still called by liberals “one of the preeminent theologians in the United States” where he serves—where else?—as professor of divinity at Harvard. He developed the thesis that the church…by which he means the word in a generic sense—Judeo-Christianity—should change from being a closed society to an activist cadre in the forefront of change, “celebrating the new ways religiosity is finding expression in the world.” He lamented that “intrinsic conservatism” prevents the denominational churches from leaving their palaces behind and stepping into “God’s permanent revolution in history.”

Cox listed two motifs in particular to characterize the style of the secular city. He called them pragmatism and…steel yourselves…profanity. Pragmatism we know. By profanity he meant “secular man’s wholly terrestrial horizaon, the disappearance of any supramundane reality defining life. Pro-fane means literally “outside the temple”—thus “having to do with the world.” There you have it. But I must leave you with more. When he wrote this book, John F. Kennedy was president and celebrated widely for being an outstanding one.

Wrote Cox: “John F. Kennedy embodies the spirit of the pragmatic.” Now there is was righter than he imagined and I have written much about Kennedy the pragmatist and so have you. By profane he lists the late French novelist and playwright Albert Camus. Profane by which “we do not suggest that secular man is sacrilegious but that he is unreligious. He views the world not in terms of some other world but in terms of itself. He feels thjat any meaning he finds must be found in this world itself. Profane man is simply this—worldly.” Anyone from this vantage-point who looks back at JFK knows where rampant pragmatism led us, from his horrendous personal life to serious misfeasances with government and failure to measure up to many—not all—tests of the Cold War. This in large measure I think is why you don’t hear much of “The Secular City” or Harvey Cox these days. As a matter of fact, I had to check the Internet to even determine if he is alive (he is: one year younger than I as a matter of fact).

Cox’s dogma is in a very real sense is what Virgil Michel anticipated and what his successor Godfrey Diekmann OSB expressly taught with some Catholic variation. Essentially it means not that we bring religious values to the secular city—for that is what all the Church fathers taught. It means…however unintentionally Cox meant it…that we convert the church to a social, worldly and political organism, recognizing that it must be a revolutionary force in the world—a force that modern liberal theorists would harness to liberal goals: elimination of all social injustice in the world…in short transforming this world to a paradise on earth.

This book has been responsible in large measure for revolutionizing the main establishment of the Protestant church and for eroding in great measure the social teachings of my own Catholic church to an adjunct of the modern Democratic party—viz the priest who drives me somewhat around the bend as you have doubtless perceived, Andy Greeley. Go to it. This concludes the `60’s defining moments for now. Let’s have your comments.


  1. Tom,

    For someone who considers himself a free-market man, your view of how to correct the situation with Catholic universities is remarkably pro-regulation and top down. You think the bishop can solve everything. I think market forces are the only hope. The bishops frittered away their authority years ago and even if they tried to reform Catholic universities now (for which they do not even have the authority in church law, except for pontifical universities), they de facto lack the power and authority to do so.

    Market forces might work, if enough Catholics among their constitutencies cared. But the ones who care long since did the free market thing and shifted to the start-ups and revert colleges.

    The universities have analyzed the Catholic market and the market calls for some reform but not too much. That change is underway at DePaul and Loyola but the market forces of Catholics who really want a fully Catholic school are too weak to take it all the way. It will be a muddle-through situation for decades. But the bishops cannot by fiat change the market.

    What will change Catholic universities is when Catholic constituencies of universities (donors, students, parents) know the faith well enough to demand authentic Catholic university life and culture.

    But that takes hard work of researching, getting involved, using the market influence they have, creating more.

    It's much easier to yell shrilly at Cardinal George, to call for a big government solution. Sorry, but the louder you shout, the more you undermine the changes that are already underway but which would take some effort to learn about.

  2. Two Comments:

    1)GK Chesterton wrote, "Once abolish the God, and the Government becomes the God."

    2)A fruit of Communism is the development of (Workers) Paradise on Earth. Just as exists in China, North Korea, Vietnam, and Russia-

  3. Dennis,

    Our Church can be very authoritarian when it wants to be. It was only a year ago or so when many diocese (not Chicago) were trying to hound out any remnants of the Latin Mass. As I type this, there are still projects going on dictated by authoritarian Bishops to move tabernacles, lower altars, remove stained glass, all without the consent of the laity.

    The Cardinal uses sound judgment on many issues in Chicago. Perhaps a more than gentle nudge would be appropriate here. It is not altogether out of character for a Bishop to be authoritarian, perhaps a stronger line could be taken with the universities.


  4. One Flashback = Five Defining Moments

  5. Good thing about G.K. Chesterton was his comment about those who cease believing in God will soon believe in anything. That establishes, I think, the human need to believe. As for the so-called Catholic Universities, let's wait to see what the Pope has to say this coming Thursday. Most Catholic Universities haven't the talent to digest Ex Corde yet, in spite of, in the case of Notre Dame, tutoring by Bishop D'Arcy. By and large, timid little men are attracted to the academic womb and the talented part of the University resides in their alumni (and ae). The base huggers don't really wish the graduates to have much say other than to cut checks to keep them in their sloth.