Documented Cases of Religious Discrimination Jump 15% by Ian Snively

Freedom of religion isn’t as protected as some Americans may think. In fact, reported attacks on religion are increasing in the U.S. and, according to First Liberty Institute, the evidence is undeniable.

The 2017 edition of a First Liberty report called “Undeniable” shows threats to Americans’ First Amendment rights spanning the past five years.

The number of documented incidents of religious discrimination grew 15 percent in 2016 compared with 2015. The number of incidents increased by 133 percent, from 600 to more than 1,400, between 2011 and 2016.

“We’re in a battle right now for religious freedom in the future of our country,” First Liberty President Kelly Shackelford said in a Facebook Live video Sept. 12.

Justin Butterfield, editor-in-chief of the study, said in an interview with The Daily Signal that much of the data comes from court filings from across the country.

The research team also collects reports from news outlets and other organizations, including the Freedom From Religion Foundation, an atheist group.

Butterfield, who has a law degree from Harvard, said researchers specifically looked for instances where someone was illegally restricted from, or prosecuted for, practicing his or her faith.

“Undeniable” divides cases into four categories: attacks on religion in public areas and the workplace; in schools; in churches and ministries; and in the military.

First Liberty, a nonprofit legal organization established in 1997, focuses on defending religious freedom in court cases. It has participated and provided information in court cases at all levels, including the Supreme Court. It also publishes reports educating Americans about the relevance of the First Amendment.

First Liberty began research in 2004, when Shackelford and others testified during a Senate hearing on discrimination and intolerance based on religion. Two senators, the late Democrat Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and John Cornyn of Texas, got in touch with Shackelford, wanting to know how prevalent the issue was.

Butterfield said Kennedy and Cornyn asked First Liberty to collect more reports of attacks on religion. The organization  first published “Undeniable” in 2012, and has published a new edition every year since.

One court case in 2012 that he found particularly appalling, Butterfield recalled, was Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church & School v. EEOC. In it, a teacher fired by a Lutheran school sued under the Americans With Disabilities Act, even though churches have the freedom to choose leaders.

When asked why he thought more cases of religious intolerance were emerging, Butterfield said that now more than ever in America, the “concept of religious freedom is unpopular.” Some Americans, he said, are “increasingly hostile to religious beliefs that differ from their own.”

But what separates the U.S. from other countries, he said, is Americans’ persistence in fighting for their faith.

“When people stand up to their religious liberties, they win,” Butterfield said.

Ian Snively

Ian Snively is a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation.


There Should Be No Religious Tests for Judicial Nominees

White House Rebuts Attacks by Democrats, New York Times on Catholic Court Nominee

A Note for our Readers:

Trust in the mainstream media is at a historic low—and rightfully so given the behavior of many journalists in Washington, D.C.

Ever since Donald Trump was elected president, it is painfully clear that the mainstream media covers liberals glowingly and conservatives critically.

Now journalists spread false, negative rumors about President Trump before any evidence is even produced.

Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. That’s why The Daily Signal exists.

The Daily Signal’s mission is to give Americans the real, unvarnished truth about what is happening in Washington and what must be done to save our country.

Our dedicated team of more than 100 journalists and policy experts rely on the financial support of patriots like you.

Your donation helps us fight for access to our nation’s leaders and report the facts.

You deserve the truth about what’s going on in Washington.

Please make a gift to support The Daily Signal.


EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of San Diego County firefighter Steven Hay prays on Sept. 11 at Grossmont College for those lost in the 9/11 terror attacks. (Photo: Nelvin C. Cepeda/Zuma Press/Newscom) Americans need an alternative to the mainstream media. But this can’t be done alone. Find out more >>

Pope Francis accused of propagating heresy

In a document titled Correctio Filialis De Haeresibus Propagatis (Correction subsidiary of heresies propagator) Catholic scholars and lay people world wide have in a letter to Pope Francis raised the issue of heresy in Church doctrine. The letter was sent to Pope Francis, when there was no reply, these Catholics published their letter to the world on September 24th, 2017.

The document deals with two issues facing the Catholic Church, modernism and the influence of Martin Luther on Pope Francis. The document states:

Scandal concerning faith and morals has been given to the Church and to the world by the publication of Amoris laetitia and by other acts through which Your Holiness has sufficiently made clear the scope and purpose of this document. Heresies and other errors have in consequence spread through the Church; for while some bishops and cardinals have continued to defend the divinely revealed truths about marriage, the moral law, and the reception of the sacraments, others have denied these truths, and have received from Your Holiness not rebuke but favour. Those cardinals, by contrast, who have submitted dubia to Your Holiness, in order that by this time-honoured method the truth of the gospel might be easily affirmed, have received no answer but silence. [Emphasis added]

In May 2015 Russ Douthat in The Atlantic column titled Will Pope Francis Break the Church? wrote:

The Church is not yet in the grip of a revolution. The limits, theological and practical, on papal power are still present, and the man who was Jorge Bergoglio has not done anything that explicitly puts them to the test. But his moves and choices (and the media coverage thereof) have generated a revolutionary atmosphere around Catholicism. For the moment, at least, there is a sense that a new springtime has arrived for the Church’s progressives. And among some conservative Catholics, there is a feeling of uncertainty absent since the often-chaotic aftermath of the Second Vatican Council, in the 1960s and ’70s.

It appears that the Church is now in the grip of a “counter revolution” against the policies and politics of Pope Francis.

The following is a summary of Correctio Filialis De Haeresibus Propagatis:

A 25-page letter signed by 40 Catholic clergy and lay scholars was delivered to Pope Francis on August 11th. Since no answer was received from the Holy Father, it is being made public today, 24th September, Feast of Our Lady of Ransom and of Our Lady of Walsingham. The letter, which is open to new signatories, now has the names of 62 clergy and lay scholars from 20 countries, who also represent others lacking the necessary freedom of speech. It has a Latin title: ‘Correctio filialis de haeresibus propagatis’ (literally, ‘A filial correction concerning the propagation of heresies’). It states that the pope has, by his Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, and by other, related, words, deeds and omissions, effectively upheld 7 heretical positions about marriage, the moral life, and the reception of the sacraments, and has caused these heretical opinions to spread in the Catholic Church. These 7 heresies are expressed by the signatories in Latin, the official language of the Church.

This letter of correction has 3 main parts. In the first part, the signatories explain why, as believing and practising Catholics, they have the right and duty to issue such a correction to the supreme pontiff. Church law itself requires that competent persons not remain silent when the pastors of the Church are misleading the flock. This involves no conflict with the Catholic dogma of papal infallibility, since the Church teaches that a pope must meet strict criteria before his utterances can be considered infallible. Pope Francis has not met these criteria. He has not declared these heretical positions to be definitive teachings of the Church, or stated that Catholics must believe them with the assent of faith. The Church teaches no pope can claim that God has revealed some new truth to him, which it would be obligatory for Catholics to believe.

The second part of the letter is the essential one, since it contains the ‘Correction’ properly speaking. It lists the passages of Amoris laetitia in which heretical positions are insinuated or encouraged, and then it lists words, deeds, and omissions of Pope Francis which make it clear beyond reasonable doubt that he wishes Catholics to interpret these passages in a way that is, in fact, heretical. In particular, the pope has directly or indirectly countenanced the beliefs that obedience to God’s Law can be impossible or undesirable, and that the Church should sometimes accept adultery as compatible with being a practising Catholic.

The final part, called ‘Elucidation’, discusses two causes of this unique crisis. One cause is ‘Modernism’. Theologically speaking, Modernism is the belief that God has not delivered definite truths to the Church, which she must continue to teach in exactly the same sense until the end of time. Modernists hold that God communicates to mankind only experiences., which human beings can reflect on, so as to make various statements about God, life and religion; but such statements are only provisional, never fixed dogmas. Modernism was condemned by Pope St Pius X at the start of the 20th century, but it revived in the middle of the century. The great and continuing confusion caused in the Catholic Church by Modernism obliges the signatories to describe the true meaning of ‘faith’, ‘heresy’, ‘revelation’, and ‘magisterium’.

A second cause of the crisis is the apparent influence of the ideas of Martin Luther on Pope Francis. The letter shows how Luther, the founder of Protestantism, had ideas on marriage, divorce, forgiveness, and divine law which correspond to those which the pope has promoted by word, deed and omission. It also notes the explicit and unprecedented praise given by Pope Francis to the German heresiarch.

The signatories do not venture to judge the degree of awareness with which Pope Francis has propagated the 7 heresies which they list. But they respectfully insist that he condemn these heresies, which he has directly or indirectly upheld.

The signatories profess their loyalty to the holy Roman Church, assure the pope of their prayers, and ask for his apostolic blessing.


I was asked by a Rabbi what I thought, as a Catholic, about Pope Francis. My reply was, “I don’t want a Catholic Church that changes with the world. I want a Catholic Church that changes the world.” Perhaps this quote by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen says it best.


Is the Pope Catholic Enough for Conservatives?

Pope Francis, Fr. Martin, and Faith without Reason

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of The Atlantic.

The Next Scandal in the Church?

William Kilpatrick writes that the Church, because of its endorsement of unlimited immigration, is complicit in the rise of Muslim sex abuse in Europe.

In a recent article, Fr. James Schall, S.J. argues that “The only real way to eliminate the historic aggressiveness of Islam is to convert its believers.”  Yet if you had to bet, “the conversion of the world to Islam is, in the long run, more likely than its conversion to Christianity.”

From a purely human perspective, the conversion of Muslims is a tall order. It’s not just that Islam is a tough nut to crack, it’s also that some today – usually Catholics – have an aversion to conversion. (Even the pope had denounced “proselytism.”)  In good multicultural fashion, they don’t want to fiddle with the unique cultural identity of the “other.”

These fashionable ideas won’t attract many Muslims, and it has an alienating effect on Christians as well. The Church in the West has been losing members as a result of the impression it gives that other faiths are just as valid as our own. So before undertaking the conversion of the Muslim world, the Church needs first to do something about the deconversion of Christians.

Ironically, one of the factors that is driving people out of the Church is its response to Islamic terror. After every terrorist attack, the Vatican (or some prominent bishop) assures us that the violence has nothing to do with Islam, which we are told is a “religion of peace” – a response not a whit different from the politically correct, secular liberal response.

In fact, Church leaders often put secular leaders to shame in their advocacy for Islam. The Obama administration called for the admittance of 10,000 Syrian refugees; the USCCB called for 100,000. When European leaders began to admit that Muslim migration should be restricted for the sake of national security, Pope Francis responded by insisting that the safety of migrants was more important than national security.

There are no statistics about how many Catholics are leaving the Church because of its welcoming attitude towards Islam, but there is anecdotal evidence.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Kilpatrick’s column . . .

Totalitarianism, Anarchism and Our Growing Discontents

David Carlin on the rising forces of the American Left: they begin as Democrats, then become anarchists, and, as history proves, will end up as totalitarians.

Given the history of Communism in Russia, China, and elsewhere, we have good reason to fear that political leftism will have totalitarian tendencies, even when the leftists in question happen to be Americans. That’s so, but there’s a further danger beyond the threat of tyranny. Please bear with me as I try to explain.

There’s an odor of totalitarianism in the many efforts being made by leftists nowadays to repress certain manifestations of free speech and freedom of conscience. We are told that “hate speech” doesn’t deserve the protections that are normally given to all other kinds of speech. For hate speech, unlike scientific speech and pornography (allegedly), does harm.

We are also told that when somebody engages in racist hate speech, this does serious harm, both direct and indirect, to African-Americans and other “persons of color.” And this harm is more serious than the harm done by, let’s say, pickpockets.  The same goes for homophobic hate speech. If we can ban pickpocketing, why can’t we ban hate speech?

Our leftists would agree, at least as an abstract proposition, that freedom of conscience is an excellent thing. But if your conscience tells you, a member of the KKK, to beat up a black man, should the rest of us, should the law, respect your freedom of conscience? Of course not.

But if your conscience tells you not to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding celebration, is that any different?

Some of us (myself, for example) think we detect embryonic forms of totalitarianism in this leftist crusade against hate speech and freedom of conscience. Others (leftists) think people like me are moral dinosaurs, trying to block a wonderful movement that is “on the right side of history.”

Allow me to suggest, however, that totalitarianism isn’t the ultimate leftist aim. The ultimate aim is anarchism. Totalitarianism is an intermediate step between the dreadful present and the anarchist ideal of total freedom.

Click here to read the rest of Professor Carlin’s column . . .

David Carlin

David Carlin

David Carlin is professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of Anarchists shopping in Seattle. © 2017 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.orgThe Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.


A Portrait of the Portrait Painter

A foible common to movers and shakers, whether clerical or lay, is a penchant for checking the index of a newly published book to see whether their names appear – and how often. I suspect that George Weigel’s newest book will provoke a good deal of surreptitious peeking.

Lessons in Hope: My Unexpected Life with St. John Paul II recounts, in fascinating and insightful detail, the providential encounters that contributed to Weigel’s magisterial two-volume portrait of the Polish pontiff: Witness to Hope and The End and the Beginning. Weigel details the many personal meetings he had with John Paul, as well as with his friends and collaborators, both in Poland and the Vatican. These lengthy and substantive encounters provided much of the rich material for his biography.

From the new book, one learns a good deal about John Paul II, particularly in the more intimate setting of shared meals. For John Paul reveled in conversation. As one collaborator remarked of him: “all conversation, all the time.”

But one also learns a great deal about the portrait painter himself. And one might confidently assert of Weigel as well: he too revels in all conversation all the time. His new book narrates countless conversations, not only with John Paul but also with many individuals who knew the future pope from his days as parish priest and university professor, through his lengthy and amazingly fruitful pontificate, to that final witness to hope: his very public suffering and death.

Weigel’s fine intellect and delight in friendship shine forth in this memoir. Even when disagreeing with those whom he interviews (as in the case of those who promoted Paul VI’s Ostpolitik – seeking accommodation with the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe), he shows deep respect for a shared humanity and its inevitable fragility.

Click here to read the rest of Father Imbelli’s column . . .

Fr. Robert P. Imbelli

Fr. Robert P. Imbelli

Robert Imbelli, a Priest of the Archdiocese of New York, is Associate Professor of Theology Emeritus at Boston College. He is the author of Rekindling the Christic Imagination: Theological Meditations for the New Evangelization.

Gender Ideology as Abuse

Matthew Hanley reports on the descent of medicine, including psychiatry, into a kind of criminal insanity about “gender issues.” It has turned healers into abusers.

The return of football and crisp autumn air is welcome, even if being a fan of some teams (such as my San Francisco 49ers) requires an act of supernatural faith again this year. But for Bennet Omalu, the “concussion doctor” (so dubbed for his role in casting a spotlight on the issue), it is a melancholy time of year. The Chief Medical Examiner in San Joaquin County, he recently speculated that letting youth play football will soon prompt a DA somewhere to prosecute because football, as he put it, “is the definition of child abuse.”

With so much real abuse to contend with, such an over-the-top contention strikes a false note, even if there is something to be said for not allowing very young people to bang heads. But the curious crusade against football is being taken quite seriously. Almost as seriously as the crusade in favor of normalizing “gender fluidity.”

I recently came across the Summer 2017 edition of Stanford Medicine News. Its feature story was: “Young and Transgender: Caring for Kids Making the Transition.” In it, a pediatric endocrinologist is lionized for her efforts to “help” these kids – by means of puberty blockers and the like. Blocking puberty is now health care? “As you treat transgender teens with hormones,” she says, “you’re affirming who they are.” Going under the knife is but another means of affirming that their body is getting it wrong by maturing normally.

I don’t mean to single out Stanford. Kowtowing to the transgender agenda is now epidemic. The most recent DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) replaced the longstanding diagnosis of “gender identity disorder” with gender “dysphoria.” Since – voilà – there is no longer any “disorder” to treat psychiatrically, the proper course necessarily becomes mutilation (via hormones and surgery).

The American Psychiatric Association, taking leave of its senses, flatly asserts that transgender transitioning involves no real delusion or impairment in judgment – delusion being defined as “a false belief or wrong judgment held with conviction despite incontrovertible evidence to the contrary.”

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Hanley’s column . . .

Matthew Hanley

Matthew Hanley

Matthew Hanley is senior fellow with the National Catholic Bioethics Center. With Jokin de Irala, M.D., he is the author of Affirming Love, Avoiding AIDS: What Africa Can Teach the West, which recently won a best-book award from the Catholic Press Association. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Hanley’s and not those of the NCBC.

On the ‘ISM’ sins: Racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia

James V.  Schall, S.J.: “Ism sins” wrongly seek to “purify” by identifying evil with unacceptable ideas, not with actions of individuals who are personally responsible for their actions.

At first sight, we might think today that nobody talks of sins anymore. Indeed, in our era, much of what was once forbidden is permitted. Just what someone would do to commit what was once called a “sin” – serious matter, full consent of the will – is difficult to pin down. A citizen is likely to end up in jail if he suggests that adultery or sodomy might just possibly be “sins” rather than “rights.”
A newer category of sinning, however, is flourishing. It is related to the older idea of “corporate guilt.” We now have the “ism” and the “phobia” sins, the general category sins by which we can judge (“Who am I to judge?”) whole groups of human beings as sinful just for being what they are.

Even earlier we had the “anti” sins – anti-Semitism or anti-Catholicism. Of course, depending on one’s politics, some of the “anti” sins were considered to be virtues – anti-fascism, anti-Nazism, anti-Communism.

These newer sins somehow, not without reason, were never mentioned in the Ten Commandments.

One can apparently contract these newer and terrible vices – racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia – without ever committing an actual sin in the older sense of the term.

Initially, sins had to do with acting persons, not with ideas or categories. To constitute sufficient matter, some identifiable individual had to act specifically against the good of himself or another identifiable person. Sins of thought did exist in the sense of willing evil in one’s heart to others, even if no overt act ever came forth.

These newer sins are more vague. Guilt is not a consequence of some particular individual’s knowledge and choice. The newer “guilt” belongs to an individual only as a member of a class or collectivity. If someone committed the sin of “racism,” just what would he have done to merit blame?

Click here to read the rest of Father Schall’s column . . .

James V. Schall, S.J.

James V. Schall, S.J.

James V. Schall, S.J., who served as a professor at Georgetown University for thirty-five years, is one of the most prolific Catholic writers in America. Among his recent books are The Mind That Is Catholic, The Modern Age, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading, Reasonable Pleasures, and, new from St. Augustine’s Press, Docilitas: On Teaching and Being Taught.

EDITORS NOTE: The features image is titled Christ and Sinner by Henryk Siemiradzki, 1875 [State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg]

Is it 1960 Again?

Robert Royal urges Catholics who are orthodox in their beliefs to resist the political trend to treat the Faith as what amounts to a hate crime.

When John F. Kennedy ran for president in 1960, anti-Catholicism, which the Harvard historian Arthur M. Schlesinger once called “the deepest bias in the history of the American people,” was still quite strong – and open. And not only among the usual suspects, like the KKK and Southern rednecks. The American poet Peter Viereck famously observed that anti-Catholicism was “the anti-Semitism of the intellectuals,” as easy to find in New York or Boston as in Alabama or Tennessee.

So it was no wonder that Kennedy felt he had to go before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in September of 1960 and assure Protestant leaders, “I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me.”
It was a clever speech, crafted by Ivy League advisors and progressive priests, and intended to reassure nervous Protestants that the pope would not be dictating policy to America – in effect saying Kennedy’s Catholicism would not have any bearing on his decisions as president.

Wags have commented, accurately if uncharitably, that there was no little irony in this pre-emptive surrender, because the Kennedy boys’ Catholicism was so private, they mostly didn’t even impose it on themselves. But the tactic worked. Kennedy won, though public Catholicism – then strong in America – lost.

The usual feelgooders inside and outside the Church celebrated the overcoming of a longstanding prejudice. But anti-Catholicism did not and still has not gone away: witness the outrageous grilling of Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett last week in a Senate judiciary hearing by Dianne Feinstein, Al Franken, and Dick Durbin.

I will pass over the slimy details except to say that “orthodox Catholic” may be about to become a political term for someone whose religious beliefs disqualify him or her from public office. Perhaps even make them unwelcome in polite society.

You can’t be surprised that the Democrats – even the nominally Catholic Durbin – attacked. They are wedded to the belief that contraception, abortion, gay marriage, transgender rights (even for very young children) not only define our “deepest values” as Americans, but must be embraced by any faith that wishes to remain a respectable presence in American society.

Unorthodox Catholics, sometimes in larger percentages than the general population, accept all those things too, and so are not a problem – at least in politics. God may someday have a word to say about that.

Click here to read the rest of Robert Royal’s column . . .

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of the Archangel Michael Hurling rebellious angels into the abyss by Luca Giordano, c. 1666 [Kunsthistorisches Museum,Vienna]


From Civil Religion to “Hate”

David Carlin writes that the new wave of intolerance, whether from the KKK or antifa, calls for a revival of our Judeo-Christian national religion. If not, get ready for the worst.

Although the United States has never had an official religion, it has traditionally been, in an informal and unofficial way, a Christian nation; more specifically, a Protestant nation. A virtually universal Protestantism was one of the chief factors, in addition to language and common law, which unified British America prior to the Revolution.  After the Revolution this near-universal Protestantism helped make it relatively easy to unite the thirteen states into a single federal state.

It is true that many of these early American “Protestants” were un-churched, especially in the less thickly settled regions of the country.  All the same, they thought of themselves as Protestant Christians.  No matter how uninstructed in the contents of the Bible many of them may have been, they regarded the Bible as the great authority in religion.  And they deplored the Catholic Church, as did all good Protestants (except for a small number of High Church Anglicans).

When in the course of the 19th and early 20th centuries great numbers of Catholics flowed into America from Ireland, Germany, Italy, Quebec, and the Slavic countries, the purely Protestant nature of the USA was compromised; and it was further compromised when many Jews came in from the Russian Empire, joining the smaller number of Jews who had come in from Germany in the mid-19th century.

As the newcomers were gradually integrated into the American way of life, the nation continued to have an informal and unofficial religion. This time it was no longer pure Protestantism. Instead it was a “Judeo-Christian” religion, a common denominator religion based on those faith-and-morality elements that Protestants, Catholics, and Jews agreed on. But this Judeo-Christian faith was much more Protestant in tone than it was Catholic or Jewish. This Protestant tone was especially notable in its belief in the right of private judgment.

Both Catholicism and Judaism were religions of authority, not of private judgment. In Catholicism, the authority was that of popes and bishops and general councils. In Judaism it was that of the rabbinical tradition. Protestantism too had an authority: the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.

But there was no authoritative interpreter of the Bible. That was up to the private judgment of every man and woman. In America, Catholics and Jews adopted this great Protestant principle of private judgment. Among Jews, rabbis lost much of their teaching authority.  Among Catholics, bishops lost much of their teaching authority.

Click here to read the rest of Professor Carlin’s column . . .

David Carlin

David Carlin is professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is of the nine-meter tall statue of Jesus Christ carved from white marble, thought to be the biggest of its kind in Africa, which was unveiled in Abajah, southeastern Nigeria on January 1, 2016. PHOTO: AFP. The image in the column is titled Nero’s Torches by Henryk Siemiradzki, 1876 [National Museum, Kraków].

Ecclesial Positivism vs. Christian Realism: The heterosexual nature of sacramental marriage

Eduardo Echeverria writes that Pope Francis recently reaffirmed Catholic teaching on the heterosexual nature of sacramental marriage, a truth based on the order of Creation.

In Politique et Société (“Politics and Society”), a recently published book-length interview with Pope Francis by Dominique Wolton, a French sociologist, Francis responds to a question about marriage: “Marriage can only be between a man and a woman. . . .We cannot change it. This is the nature of things, not just in the Church, but in human history.”

Francis thus undercuts the root objection to those Catholics – such as Australian Jesuit Frank Brennan – who support the civil marriage of same-sex couples while distinguishing the latter from marriage in a sacramental sense. Canonist Edward N. Peters has already posted a devastating rebuttal of this specious claim.

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden by Wenzel Peter, c. 1800 [Vatican Museum]

I have written on marriage inThe Catholic Thing earlier, but here I would like to highlight – unpacking Francis’s response – the ontological basis of the truth of the Church’s teaching regarding marriage.

Is marriage a two-in-one-flesh union between a man and a woman because the Church says so, positing or postulating its existence and nature according to its own judgment, that is, Church law? If so, then, one accepts ecclesial “positivism,” the view that these are basically mere conventions. Indeed, Catholics, such as, Johan Bonny, the Bishop of Antwerp, may be regarded as an ecclesial positivist because he gives as the only reason for rejecting same-sex marriage the fact that “Church law” says otherwise. This positivism is similar to one thinking that human beings have rights because the state or society says so.

Alternatively, does the Church judge that marriage is a two-in-one-flesh union between a man and woman because that judgment is true to an objective reality, according to the order of creation? If so, then, one is a Christian realist: marriage is grounded in the order of creation, of an independently existing reality, and therefore has an objective structure judged by the Church to be the case or the way things really are.

On this view, the fact that the Church teaches that marriage is a two-in-one-flesh union between a man and a woman adds nothing to the truth-status of this dogma. This realism about the truth-status of dogmatic propositions is similar to one holding that human beings have rights by virtue of their nature as human beings, and the state simply secures, rather than confers, those rights by writing them down in a constitution.

Click here to read the rest of Professor Echeverria’s column . . . 

Eduardo J. Echeverria

Eduardo J. Echeverria is Professor of Philosophy and Systematic Theology, Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit. His publications include Pope Francis: The Legacy of Vatican II (2015) and Divine Election: A Catholic Orientation in Dogmatic and Ecumenical Perspective (2016).

The Top Three Arguments against a Universal Basic Income

Unfortunately, a welfare state by any other name is still a welfare state. Brittany Hunter — by  Brittany Hunter

Every so often a new study is released, concluding that a universal basic income (UBI) is needed to fix this country’s welfare system. Most recently, the Roosevelt Institute claimed that switching to a UBI system could actually grow the economy by $2.5 trillion by the year 2025.

The study is full of hypothetical situations in which Americans receive a UBI of varying amounts. The research concludes that the higher the UBI, the more prosperous the economy. But like many UBI apologists, the study misses the major problems with such a system. Here are the three main ones:

1. It’s Expensive

Proponents claim that the UBI would be an efficient replacement for the country’s bloated welfare apparatus, and so would actually reduce overall costs.

Unfortunately, a welfare state by any other name is still a welfare state. And the UBI is just replacing one pricey system for another. And unlike the current welfare state, which has standards for determining who qualifies for certain aid, a UBI would be given to everyone. This would dramatically increase the pool of citizens receiving benefits from the state and inflict massive expenses across the board.

The Roosevelt Institute study posits two different ways to fund the UBI. But neither would benefit the national economy or the taxpayer. The study’s “positive” findings about economic stimulation are only applicable if the program is funded by increasing the federal deficit. So basically, in order to “grow” our economy, we must first plunge the American people even further into debt.

The second scenario presented in the report was a UBI funded through increased taxation. In this instance, the study found no net benefit to the overall national economy. In fact the report even went so far as to state:

When paying for the policy by increasing taxes on households rather than paying for the policy with debt, the policy is not expansionary. In effect, it is giving to households with one hand what it is taking away with the other. There is no net effect.”

There would be an effect, however, on the American taxpayer. When the Resolution Foundation, a think tank in the UK crunched the numbers to see what the cost would be to the taxpayer, they found that the amount paid would actually be much more than the amount received.

Commenting on the problems with the UBI as they related specifically for the UK, Robert Colvile writes:

…From the first pound you earned to the £43,001st, you’d pay a combined rate of income tax and National Insurance of around 35-40 per cent, after which the higher rate of tax would kick in as normal. In other words, to get that £3,692 from the Government, you’d pay thousands of pounds more.”

What this type of proposal really means is that a vast sum of people will be paying more in taxes than they already do. Colvile also notes that “In fact, it would represent a transfer of £120 billion of extra taxation into the welfare state – the equivalent of the entire budget of the NHS in England.”

If this is the case for the UK, it would most certainly be the case for the US.

This money has to come from somewhere. It will not appear out of thin air. And unfortunately, it is the American people who would be stuck with the bill for a grandiose UBI system.

2. Incentives Work, Handouts Don’t

Incentives are a powerful force. And there is no greater incentive than financial security and holding a job is essential to that end. When something comes easy, it is easily taken for granted. And while it would be nice to believe otherwise, giving cash handouts to every American incentivizes them to try that much less.

By removing the financial incentive to work, the state is encouraging idleness, something contrary to the entrepreneurial spirit so deeply woven throughout our country’s history.

During the Clinton era, the welfare state saw tremendous decreases. But that didn’t mean there were millions of Americans struggling to get by. Employment actually increased because individuals were incentivized to get jobs when there was no longer a guaranteed safety net.

3. The Welfare State Isn’t Going Anywhere

As previously mentioned, there are always claims that a UBI could decrease, reform, or even abolish our welfare system. But no one seems to have any idea as to how this transition would actually look.

This is because there is no transitory plan in place. And any such plan that came to fruition would surely be political suicide since you run the risk of angering someone. And for politicians who rely on the support and approval of their constituents, this is sure to bring some unwanted criticisms.

Anyone in the policy realm knows that there is no better way to alienate older constituents than threatening to take away their Social Security benefits. In fact, even the mere mention of decreases usually causes rooms of senior citizens to fear for their well being. Even if there is an alternative plan presented to them, it does not calm the fears of what might happen during the transitionary period. It is for this reason that Social Security is often called the “third rail” of politics.

Additionally, trying to get individuals transitioned off of one welfare plan, and into the next requires, at least temporarily, the funding of both programs. A decision to enact a UBI would not magically abolish the American welfare system. America’s welfare programs have been around for so long, it would take time to unroot it. Too many people have become reliant on our welfare state to have it simply wiped out overnight.

And who is going to pay for the process in the meantime? Well, the American taxpayer of course.

If anything, incorporating a UBI in America would most likely result in an additional layer of the welfare being added on top of our existing programs. This would, in effect, increase the state’s power rather than decrease it. Governments are rarely keen on relinquishing their power, and there is great power in controlling the welfare of the citizenry. It is therefore highly unlikely that the welfare state as we know it today would simply cease to exist.

There Is No Welfare Utopia

Bastiat famously said, “The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else.” This is exactly why any form of welfare state is bound to fail. You cannot take from one, give to another and expect everyone’s hardships to be solved.

The UBI creates the illusion of decreasing the welfare state when the facts of the matter all point to the contrary. Everyone would like to live in a society where no one wanted for anything and everyone was provided for. But we live in a society of individuals with individual aspirations and goals. Pretending that we can centrally plan a welfare system with so many distinct wants and needs is unrealistic and unobtainable.

Our current system cannot be maintained because it’s too expensive. Period. Already programs like Social Security are projected to run out of money within the next decade and there is no plan for how to approach this coming storm. Why would anyone think broader welfare state situation would be any different?

If we cannot financially maintain our current system, it would be an unwise to believe we could somehow afford a UBI. As Colvile says when comparing one welfare system with the other, “It’s old wine in new bottles – redistributive, seventies-style taxation under a trendy new branding.”

Brittany Hunter

Brittany Hunter

Brittany Hunter is an associate editor at FEE. Brittany studied political science at Utah Valley University with a minor in Constitutional studies.

Now or Never for Rebuilding Christianity in Iraq

Brad Miner reports on the return of Christians to the Nineveh plains in Iraq. This “Dunkirk in reverse” is the result of the efforts of international aid agencies . . . and the grace of God.

The day after Labor Day marks the return to school of millions of American kids. This year, God be praised, it will also mark the return to school of Iraqi Christian children, who with their families are returning to the Nineveh plains to reclaim their homes and lives that were so brutally uprooted by terrorism and war. Aid to the Church in Need USA, the American division of the international papal agency, has been instrumental in helping to make this possible. I serve on the board of directors of ACNUSA. Our TCT colleague and contributor George Marlin is chairman of the board.

In an earlier column, I wrote about a speech Mr. Marlin gave in which he called for a new Marshall Plan for the Middle East. I’m happy to report that the first steps in implementing such a plan are underway in Iraq.

We’re truly thrilled that this month ACN hopes to repatriate 15,000 people in Qaraqosh, Iraq – that’s 3,000 families.

This plat, with damaged homes over-lined in yellow, shows how extensive the destruction was:

Overall in the Nineveh Plain, more than 1200 homes were totally destroyed by ISIS, more than 3000 were damaged due to fire, and another 8000-plus were damaged and now need repairs of some kind. Of churches, the numbers are, respectively, 34, 132, and 197. It’s what you might call an unnatural disaster.

But as I also wrote earlier, the repatriation of Christians in the Church’s original homeland depends upon peace. And although ISIS has been pushed out of Nineveh, it remains to be seen if the safety and security of Iraqis – in Nineveh and elsewhere – can be guaranteed.

Here’s the story:

When the world’s recent refugee problem first became news, it was usually in terms of fighting between ISIS and various domestic armies and militias – mostly in Iraq and Syria. Most of us have seen photographs of long lines of internally displaced persons (IDPs) fleeing either from the fighting or from the ultimatums ISIS made to Christians: convert to Islam, leave your homelands, or die. Very few Christians chose to convert and some were put to the sword. But most – along with many, many Muslims – simply fled: either to foreign countries or to refugee camps.

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Miner’s column . . .

Brad Miner

Brad Miner is senior editor of The Catholic Thing, senior fellow of the Faith & Reason Institute, and a board member of Aid to the Church In Need USA. He is a former Literary Editor of National Review. His new book, Sons of St. Patrick, written with George J. Marlin, is now on sale. The Compleat Gentleman, is available on audio and as an iPhone app.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured drawing is returning of the roots Christian of Nineveh in 2017. Iraqi children of the Mariana School drawings about it.

Just War Theory: Still Relevant?

Howard Kainz: In a time of wars and rumors of war, especially with regard to North Korea, it is essential to look again at just war theory in the age of nukes.

A nuclear North Korea is putting additional strains on just war theory, already under great strains for more than a half-century owing to modern weaponry.

As an Air Force ROTC cadet in the 1950s at Loyola University, Los Angeles, I studied analyses of the logistics and effects of atomic and hydrogen bombs – how many people would be killed in population centers, who would or could avoid lethal exposure, etc., all very detailed and prosaic.

Many people then built bomb shelters in their backyards, and advertisers touted the advantages of their shelter “brands,” special amenities, how to avoid intrusions, etc.
After graduation, I taught in a public school, before going to graduate school. Those over 60 may still remember the government-devised “duck and cover” drills that we teachers inflicted on our students in preparation for a nuclear attack – crouching down under desks – even in classrooms with open windows!

In the 1960s, after the failed “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Cuba and President Kennedy’s close encounter with Soviet missiles, we learned that strategists had devised a new defense against nuclear attack, called “MAD” i.e., “mutually assured destruction.” During the “Cold” War with the Soviets, who were presumably non-suicidal, MAD gave us some assurances – barring possible accidents or failures of communication, although there were a few hair-raisers.

People stopped building bomb shelters in their backyards.

Some of the more rational nations, including Russia and China, joined the non-proliferation treaty (NPT), along with our allies, France and the United Kingdom.

But sighs of relief stopped, as nations that had not agreed to the NPT began to build their own nuclear arsenals – Pakistan, India (which originally signed but withdrew from NPT), and Israel (which still officially denies it has any nuclear weaponry).

After Iraq and Libya eventually gave up their attempts to join the “nuclear club,” Iran took up the torch, and seems to be making consistent progress.

And now North Korea. Does MAD make sense in this new context? Can we trust that Kim Jong-un, with all his threats, is not suicidal?

Click here to read the rest of Professor Kainz’ column . . .

The Recent Popes on Work and Workers

Pope St. John Paul II, and Pope Francis on work and working men and women. Work is fundamental. 

The Church is convinced that work is a fundamental dimension of man’s existence on earth. She is confirmed in this conviction by considering the whole heritage of the many sciences devoted to man: anthropology, palaeontology, history, sociology, psychology and so on; they all seem to bear witness to this reality in an irrefutable way. But the source of the Church’s conviction is above all the revealed word of God, and therefore what is aconviction of the intellect is also a conviction of faith. The reason is that the Church-and it is worthwhile stating it at this point-believes in man: she thinks of man and addresses herself to him not only in the light of historical experience, not only with the aid of the many methods of scientific knowledge, but in the first place in the light of the revealed word of the living God. Relating herself to man, she seeks to express the eternal designs and transcendent destiny which the living God, the Creator and Redeemer, has linked with him.

The Church finds in the very first pages of the Book of Genesis the source of her conviction that work is a fundamental dimension of human existence on earth. An analysis of these texts makes us aware that they express-sometimes in an archaic way of manifesting thought-the fundamental truths about man, in the context of the mystery of creation itself. These truths are decisive for man from the very beginning, and at the same time they trace out the main lines of his earthly existence, both in the state of original justice and also after the breaking, caused by sin, of the Creator’s original covenant with creation in man. When man, who had been created “in the image of God. . . .male and female,” hears the words: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it,” even though these words do not refer directly and explicitly to work, beyond any doubt they indirectly indicate it as an activity for man to carry out in the world. Indeed, they show its very deepest essence. Man is the image of God partly through the mandate received from his Creator to subdue, to dominate, the earth. In carrying out this mandate, man, every human being, reflects the very action of the Creator of the universe.

Work understood as a “transitive” activity, that is to say an activity beginning in the human subject and directed towards an external object, presupposes a specific dominion by man over “the earth,” and in its turn it confirms and develops this dominion. It is clear that the term “the earth” of which the biblical text speaks is to be understood in the first place as that fragment of the visible universe that man inhabits. By extension, however, it can be understood as the whole of the visible world insofar as it comes within the range of man’s influence and of his striving to satisfy his needs. The expression “subdue the earth” has an immense range. It means all the resources that the earth (and indirectly the visible world) contains and which, through the conscious activity of man, can be discovered and used for his ends. And so these words, placed at the beginning of the Bible, never cease to be relevant. They embrace equally the past ages of civilization and economy, as also the whole of modern reality and future phases of development, which are perhaps already to some extent beginning to take shape, though for the most part they are still almost unknown to man and hidden from him. – from John Paul II’s Laborem Exercens (1981)

Click here to read the rest of the popes’ words . . .  

Robert Royal

Robert Royal is editor-in-chief of The Catholic Thing, and president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington, D.C. His most recent book is A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century, published by Ignatius Press. The God That Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, is now available in paperback from Encounter Books.

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is a painting titled Men of the Docks by George Bellows, 1912 located in the National Gallery, Washington, D.C.

The One Thing Needful: Is European Cultural Reform Pointless?

R.J. Snell looks at our ominous future through the eyes of Father Julián Carrón, who sees cultural reform as pointless except in encounter with the risen Lord. 

The literary critic George Steiner describes our civilizational ennui as entailing “manifold processes of frustration, of cumulative désoeuvrement,” the lack of anything worthwhile to do. It’s an odd description for our busy era, full of technical advances, an anxious drive to improve our lot, and a sense of unceasing and ever more rapid change. Still, what’s the point? Where is it all going?

He continues by noting “energies eroded to routine as entropy increases . . . the drowsy nausea . . . exasperated, vague waiting – but for what?” With an air of sadness, he claims that “the old vocabulary is exhausted, that the forms of classic culture cannot be rebuilt on any general scale.”

Then-Cardinal Ratzinger made a similar observation in Without Roots: “Is European culture perhaps nothing more than the technology and trade civilization that has marched triumphantly across the planet…? At the hour of its greatest success, Europe seems hollow, as if it were internally paralyzed by a failure of its circulatory system that is endangering its life . . . infected by a strange lack of desire for the future.”

It’s pale consolation knowing that I am hardly alone in sensing an end point, a tired staleness. The old vocabulary is exhausted while the great convictions of the Enlightenment wind down, enervated, spent, having consumed themselves in excess, contradiction, and failed attempts to pursue life while ignoring the Author of life.

But shared judgments bring small comfort; I find much more hopefulness in the new book, Disarming Beauty: Essays on Faith, Truth, and Freedom, by Julián Carrón, president of the ecclesial movement Communion and Liberation.

According to Carrón, the dearest values of Europe have largely reversed themselves, contributing not to the promised flourishing, but risking “the utter annihilation of man.” The ideology of freedom becomes a dogmatism fundamentally hostile to genuine liberty as reason narrows and deforms itself into sclerotic rationalism or nihilistic will to power. The authentic freedom of living in the truth is almost indiscernible in the corridors of the academy, the halls of power, and the public square.

And, sometimes, the Church seems tired, too. For instance, as I write, the homepage of L’Osservatore Romano shares vital news of the new logos for Pope Francis’ visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar, we are reminded that “dialogue is the key word,” and informed that the missionary mandate to bring others into the Church is “in need of a fresh theological justification” since the World Council of Churches suggests we do not offend or violate the “religious sensibilities” of others.

Fr. Julián Carrón

While somewhat random, these headlines read like a laying down of arms, a surrender. We rush to accommodate, to assimilate, to be on the right side of history at the very moment that the West increasingly acknowledges a failure of identity and crisis of meaning. Just as liberal post-modernity pleads for help, the Church seems hell-bent to open her doors and windows to its stale, fetid breeze. Many voices announce The Strange Death of Europe, or The End of Europe, or The Retreat of Western Liberalism while the Church . . . well, the Church seems to slumber.

What are we doing?

Click here to read the rest of Mr. Snell’s column . . .

R.J. Snell

R.J. Snell

R.J. Snell directs the Center on the University and Intellectual Life at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey. His most book is The Perspective of Love: Natural Law in a New Mode and Acedia and Its Discontents: Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire.

RELATED ARTICLE: Bannon Rips Catholic Church, Says Bishops Want ‘Unlimited Illegal Immigration’