1. Is the Religious Right Privileged?, The history of race and religion under liberalism is a tangle, not just a morality play.

By Ross Douthat, The New York Times, June 18, 2019

Which takes us from race to religion, from Serwer’s defense of America’s promise to his attack on today’s religious conservatives. There is plenty in today’s religious right to criticize, especially on issues of race. But the idea that the religious-conservative coalition just represents the former big winners of American history, resentful of their lost privilege and yet even now so secure within it that they can’t imagine being on the receiving end of state oppression, is … not really an accurate description.

In fact, the religious right consists of an alliance of several groups that, without experiencing anything like the oppression visited on black Americans, have consistently occupied lower rungs in the American social hierarchy. Today’s evangelicalism is a complicated mix, but it is heavily descended from Bible Belt, prairie and Sun Belt folkways that were often poor and marginalized and rarely close to the corridors of power. Its allies in pro-life, pro-family politics include Orthodox Jews, whose history is not exactly one of power; Mormons, who were harried westward by a brutal persecution and then forced to rewrite their doctrines by state power; and conservative Roman Catholics, about whose difficult relationship to liberalism I will say more in a moment. And all of these groups are embedded in global religious communities in which persecution is as common as privilege — which if anything probably leads them to worry too much about what a hostile government might do to them, not to fail to imagine such oppression.

And for serious Papists, especially, the longer arc of liberalism has to look a bit dubious at the moment. Whether it descends through John Locke or Voltaire, the liberal order has often tended to define itself against the Catholic Church, and in the European context to answer ancien-régime cruelties with anti-Catholic persecutions, expropriations and terrors all its own.

In America that anticlericalism was milder, and with Catholic assimilation and Catholic patriotism (a less remarkable analogue to the African-American patriotism Serwer describes) there was a promise that it would eventually disappear entirely.

But from the perspective of conservative Catholicism — which I do not ask you to share, only to inhabit for a moment — the story of the last 50 years is very different.

Religiously, liberal individualism has become a solvent for the faith, in the United States as well as Europe. Politically, liberalism has imposed via the judiciary, the least democratic branch, a constitutional right to abortion, a form of lethal violence that the church opposes for the same reasons it opposes infanticide — and after 50 years of small-d democratic activism by pro-lifers, the pro-choice side seems to be hardening into a view that such activism is as un-American as racism. Legally, elite liberalism is increasingly embracing arguments that would make it difficult or impossible for the church to operate hospitals and adoption agencies today, and perhaps colleges and grammar schools tomorrow. And in its internal life, beneath the post-Protestant tendency I’ve just described, progressive politics is also nurturing a fashionable occultism, whose rituals may be practiced somewhat ironically or performatively but whose anti-Catholicism seems quite sincere.

If you have a sense of Catholicism’s history that’s deeper than the last 50 years, these turns are not, as Serwer suggests, the first time that a privileged church full of privileged white people has had to deal with defeat or disappointment. Rather, they threaten the return of longstanding tendency in modern secular polities — an institutionalized anti-Catholicism that effectively oppresses the church even if it stops short of persecuting it, a form of liberalism that is (if you will) integrally opposed to my religion’s flourishing.

But because I am inside conservative Catholicism I can see very well where the (narrow) interest in ideas like “integralism” and the (much larger) sympathy for populist rebellions is coming from. And because I would prefer that political liberalism turn away from the trajectory that is inspiring both integralism and Trumpism, I want liberals — liberals like Serwer, perhaps liberals like you, reader — to embrace a historical perspective that is wider and more complicated than a partisan story about privileged white Christians whining because they’ve never lost anything before.


2. Religious-Garb Ban For Public Employees.

By Kim Mackrael, The Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2019, Pg. A9

Quebec will prohibit teachers, police officers and certain other public-sector employees from wearing religious symbols while on the job, making the French-speaking Canadian province the first North American jurisdiction in decades to enact such a ban.

The new Quebec law, which also covers judges and provincial prosecutors, applies to all religious symbols including the crucifix, the government has said. Civil-liberties groups have argued it will disproportionately affect religious minorities such as Muslim women who wear head scarfs and Sikh men who wear turbans.

The law exempts public-sector employees as long as they remain in their current positions. That exemption is lost if an employee is transferred or promoted, or if their mandate in a particular job ends


3. Euthanasia And Organ Harvesting, As lawful assisted suicide spreads, some advocates call for a monstrous expansion.

By F.H. Buckley, The Wall Street Journal, June 18, 2019, Pg. A17, Commentary

Euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide is legal in Switzerland, Holland and Belgium, as well as a growing number of U.S. states, including California, Colorado and most recently Maine, whose governor signed the Death With Dignity Act last week. New medical guidance in Canada, where the practice has been legal for three years for terminally ill patients, hints at the monstrous ways assisted suicide might be expanded in the coming years.

About 30 euthanasia patients in Canada have donated their organs after death since 2016. On June 3 the Canadian Medical Association issued guidelines for how the process should work. The grim document describes how the organ donation and euthanasia decisions might be disentangled, but allows doctors to raise the possibility of organ donation with assisted-suicide patients. It also clarifies that organ removal should not begin until the patient is medically deceased and the heart has stopped beating.

But some experts quarrel with this restriction. Last year in a New England Journal of Medicine article, two Canadian medical researchers and a Harvard bioethicist argued that it could reduce the quality of donated organs. A superior model, they suggest, could be to kill the patient by removing his organs. After all, the best organs come from live people, like those who donate one of their kidneys.

Slippery-slope arguments are often unpersuasive. Do this bad thing, and that really bad thing will necessarily follow. But in this case the really bad things are a tippy-toe down the slippery slope. That should give legislators in states like New York pause before they move to legalize euthanasia. Medical professionals should not be given the incentive to see their patients as sacks of valuable organs rather than as human beings.


4. Justices decline wedding-cake case.

By Robert Barnes, The Washington Post, June 18, 2019, Pg. A7

The Supreme Court on Monday passed up the chance to decide whether a baker’s religious objections to same-sex marriage mean she can refuse to create a wedding cake for a gay couple when state law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The case would have been a sequel to last year’s consideration of the same topic. The court ruled then for a Colorado baker who refused to make a cake for a gay couple’s wedding reception, but it left undecided whether a business owner’s religious beliefs or free speech rights can justify refusing some services to gay people.

The Supreme Court deliberated for months about whether to take the Oregon case. The delay indicates there were behindthe-scenes negotiations, although the justices did not reveal them. Instead, they simply sent the matter back to an Oregon appeals court and told it to look again in light of the Colorado decision. 


5. Understanding the debate over married priests at the Amazon synod.

By John L. Allen Jr., Editor, Crux, June 18, 2019

Every so often, we get official confirmation of the obvious, and, surprisingly enough, it still makes waves. Such is the case again this week with the release of a preparatory document for an October summit of bishops on the Amazon, which confirms that the ordination of married “elderly people,” meaning men, will be on the agenda.

Nonetheless, given all the lengths to which Rome has gone over the years to squash consideration of married priests, seeing the topic on an official Vatican agenda is still a bit arresting.

To understand the nature of the discussion we’re likely to see in October, here are three essential things to understand.

First, the debate is not over whether the Catholic Church can have married priests. It already does, and plenty of them.

Second, this discussion will be very different from debate over married priests in the U.S. or Western Europe, because it’s basically not ideological.

For bishops from these parts of the world, the issue of the viri probati isn’t a question of left v. right, and some of the prelates campaigning for it are otherwise among the deepest theological and political conservatives you’ll ever meet. It’s also not tied to any larger diagnosis of what’s ailing the Church – it’s instead a simple practical matter of wanting to be able to provide the sacraments to their people on a regular basis.

Third, this fall’s debate will be just that – a debate. It’s not a foregone conclusion that the viri probati will enjoy majority support, and although a synod is merely advisory and Pope Francis can do whatever he wants, he will certainly be listening.

Even if permission for the viri probati were to be granted only for a highly circumscribed geographical location, it would set a precedent, and it wouldn’t take long for activists elsewhere to begin seeking the same latitude.

While it’s anyone’s guess what might happen during the Oct. 6-27 synod, one thing is for sure: By putting married priests on the agenda, the Vatican has ensured that a much wider audience will be tuning in.


6. After HHS Decision on Aborted Fetal Tissue, Will Ethical Vaccines Get a Boost?.

By Peter Jesserer Smith, National Catholic Register, June 17, 2019

Catholic medical experts hope the HHS pledge to fund ‘adequate alternatives’ to medical advances based on fetal tissue will assist the development of ethical vaccines.

As part of its push to eliminate or greatly restrict federal funds involved with fetal-tissue research, the Trump administration canceled a medical research contract with the University of California, where fetal cells were infused with mouse immune systems.

The June 5 decision from the Department of Health and Human Services is the latest example of the administration pledging to find “adequate alternatives” to research that has depended on fetal tissue and to make sure “efforts to develop such alternatives are funded and accelerated.”

“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration,” the decision  stated.  

The announcement may give hope for Catholics that the time has come to push for the development or distribution of ethical vaccines whose source cells did not involve the taking of a human life by abortion.


7. University of California Slams Trump For Ending Contract to Purchase Body Parts of Aborted Babies.

By Steven Ertelt, LifeNews.com, June 17, 2019, 12:16 PM

The University of California is not happy that President Donald Trump ended a contract for $2 million of taxpayer funds for it to purchase body parts from aborted babies.

Details uncovered by CNS News in 2018 shed light on an NIH contract with University of California San Francisco, which provides money for fetal body parts to conduct experiments involving “humanized mice.”

Aborted baby body parts used in the experiments were taken from healthy, potentially viable unborn babies. According to the report, the aborted babies were 18 to 24 weeks gestation from “women with normal pregnancies before elective termination for non-medical reasons.” 

The UC Office of the President claimed the research gained from using aborted baby parts was important and that the new restrictions are a step in the wrong direction.

“The importance of fetal tissue research cannot be overstated, and today’s action is a step backward for science. 

 But Dr. David Prentice, vice president and research director at Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), says using aborted baby parts and so-called fetal tissue, is not advancing research.

He told LifeNews the Trump administration’s “move demonstrates NIH’s investment in scientifically-proven methods for research: adult stem cells, iPS cells, organoids, humanized mice constructed using postnatally sourced cells and improved non-human cell lines—just to name a few. All of these have been used in the production of treatments, vaccines and medicines currently on the market; the key is that our government will now invest in effective research methods that do not rely on the destruction of human life.”

“Many modern vaccines use animal cell lines, even insect cell lines, as well as modern human cells that are not from fetal tissue. As just a couple of examples, the new Ebola vaccine – recently shown to be 97.5% effective – is produced using the Vero monkey cell line, and the recently approved shingles vaccine (Shingrix) which is a modern recombinant subunit vaccine produced in engineered hamster cells, also than 90% effectiveness while providing better protection than the historical vaccine produced in fetal cell,” he explained.

Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, Policy Advisor for The Catholic Association, added, “Experimentation using the liver, lungs, hearts, skulls or any other body part of an aborted baby is morally corrupt. Taxpayers have been forced to fund inhumane procedures conducted by corporations looking to make a buck. President Trump made the moral and ethical call to end taxpayer funding of this gruesome experimentation.”


Subscribe to the TCA podcast!
“Conversations with Consequences” is a new audio program from The Catholic Association. We’ll bring you thoughtful dialogue with the leading thinkers of our time on the most consequential issues of our day. Subscribe today or listen online and enjoy our entertaining and informative weekly episodes.