Friday, April 12, 2019

Can Catholics Still Vote for Democrats?

In 2013, Thomas Tobin, the Catholic bishop of Providence, announced that he’d registered as a Republican. It caused a minor scandal, not because a bishop declared partisan loyalties, but because his loyalties weren’t to the Democratic Party, home of people such as New York's Gov. Al Smith and President John F. Kennedy.

In politics, America’s Catholic prelates are Democrats almost to a man. They’ve denounced President
Trump’s border wall with far more vigor than they ever demonstrated when it would have mattered during the same-sex marriage debate. They spent the entire lead-up to Obamacare trying to sweeten and woo Barack Obama, leaving nuns to fight his birth control mandate by themselves.

Bishops are citizens and have the right to their views, just as you and I do. None of our shepherds will deny, however, that it becomes increasingly difficult to vote for the party of their forefathers.

At one time, Democrats stood on the docks of Ellis Island, singing, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/ And I’ll get them registered to vote for Tammany." Today, Cardinal Timothy Dolan admits to feeling “abandoned.” In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal last March, the archbishop of New York recalls fond memories of his grandmother warning him, “We Catholics don’t trust those Republicans.” Alas, this is no longer the case. It’s a “cause of sadness to many Catholics,” Dolan wrote, his eminence, no doubt, included.

Tobin and Dolan pose a valid question, though: Is there a future for Catholics in the Democratic Party?

[Read more at The Washington Examiner]

Roger Scruton for Architecture Czar!

Dismal news over the wire from Blighty: Sir Roger Scruton, the greatest living conservative philosopher, has been dismissed as chair of the British government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission after making a few anodyne remarks to the New Statesman about the Communist Party of China. “They’re creating robots out of their own people,” quoth Sir Roger, “each Chinese person is a kind of replica of the next one and that is a very frightening thing.”

Predictably, the Wets and Labourites are offended on behalf of totalitarians over this nonexistent racial slight. Meanwhile, normal people are offended by the CPC’s latest experiment in social engineering, the Social Credit system, which is indeed meant to turn the populace into well-managed and safely predictable automata. To call the Communists’ machinations “frightening” is positively charitable.

Sir Roger also noted that “anybody who doesn’t think that there’s a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts.” This was, apparently, anti-Semitic. Yet you’ll remember that the Financial Times named Mr. Soros its Person of the Year for 2018, calling him “a standard bearer for liberal democracy, an idea under siege from populists.” To the best of my knowledge, nobody at the FT was sacked for anti-Semitism.

There’s no question that Mr. Soros is throwing his fortune around trying to undermine Viktor Orb├ín and his Fidesz party, just as there’s no doubt he’s throwing his fortune around trying to undermine President Trump and the Republican Party. He certainly isn’t a progressive hero for making billions off his hedge funds. Sir Roger simply holds the improper view of Mr. Soros’s activities, and now faces the wrath of Mr. Soros’s other clients and beneficiaries.

[Read more at The American Conservative]

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Radicalism of Russell Kirk

At last, over the summer, I made my pilgrimage to Piety Hill. Russell Kirk’s red brick mansion lords over the rust-bitten village of Mecosta, Michigan. The original wooden lodging was built in 1878 by his great-grandfather Amos Johnson. After it burned to the ground on Ash Wednesday 1975, he built this curious Italianate thing.

Two flintlock pistols hang over the mantle, flanking a helmet that looks as though it belonged to Genghis Khan. The dining room was built entirely from the scraps of a local parish church; pews were used for the roof, and statues of angels stand in niches behind Kirk’s old seat at the head of the table. He became Catholic in 1963, but the table in the drawing room was used by his spiritualist grandparents during their seances.

My guest house used to be haunted by his great-uncle Raymond (so Kirk’s 11-year-old grandson tells me) until a visiting priest convinced Ray he’d overstayed his welcome. The Sage of Mecosta’s 10,000-volume library, where he wrote the lion’s share of his essays and books, stands in a little ivy-strewn house adjacent to the main campus.

It is, as I said, a kind of holy place for me. I came to Kirk via T.S. Eliot, whose poetry I read obsessively as a freshman in high school. His longtime pen pal Kirk was my first introduction to politics. Ten years later and I remain a fairly unreconstructed Kirkian.

But what, exactly, is a “Kirkian”?

Hopefully one isn’t judging by the tributes that were written for Kirk’s centennial. Magazines from The Atlantic to Newsmax published eulogies for the Sage of Mecosta. Most of them cast him as a bit player in the founding of National Review—an eccentric, tweedy academic who somehow found himself near the vanguard of the Goldwater movement.

Even during Kirk’s lifetime, conservative officialdom began passing him off as a court philosopher in Ronald Reagan’s White House, existing only to cover the Gipper’s agenda with a patina of intellectual sophistication. Kirk liked Reagan well enough (as he ought to have), but he was not a Reaganite. This is clear to everyone who bothers to read his books. The set of principles and policy agendas that Kirk called “conservatism” bears virtually no resemblance to the ideology that exists under those auspices today.

[Read more at The American Conservative]

Monday, April 1, 2019

Is Archbishop Wilton Gregory the right man for Washington?

It’s (almost) official: Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta will be appointed the next Archbishop of Washington, according to Ed Condon of the Catholic News Agency.

The office has technically been vacant since the last archbishop, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, resigned in October. Wuerl had been damaged by claims that he covered up sex abuse in his previous diocese of Pittsburgh. He had also maintained – in the face of claims to the contrary – that he knew nothing about the predatory sexual activities of his notorious predecessor, Theodore McCarrick.

Washington is perhaps the most sought-after diocese for ambitious American bishops – but a particular kind of bishop. While the Archbishop of New York finds himself rubbing shoulders with media and cultural luminaries, Washington’s archbishop has priceless access to lawmakers and political lobbyists. McCarrick’s talents as a fundraiser and Wuerl’s masterful diplomacy served them well in the post.

But because Washington is at the very heart of the current sex-abuse crisis, the Vatican couldn’t afford simply to hand the see to the next bureaucrat in line.

[Read more at the Catholic Herald]