Category Archives: Commentary

Archbold: The Coming Thud on American Campuses

For years, many have warned that the culture has been sliding down a slippery slope. We’ve been on it for so long you might expect to hear a thud soon from hitting bottom. But we haven’t yet.

Every time we think we’ve hit bottom, the floor drops and we’re forced to realize that there’s a lot of falling still to do. And you can thank Harvard University for recently showing us that there’s so much further to fall with their announcement that they’re approving a BDSM club.

For those who don’t know, BDSM is short for bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadism and masochism. Amazingly, Inside Higher Ed reported that Harvard is not alone in this, because Cornell, Tufts, and Yale Universities already have similar fetish clubs on campus.

This is the kind of stupidity that could only be approved by people with PhD’s. And while many may mock this, please remember that things occur regularly now that would have seemed outlandish just twenty years ago. Yesterday’s punchline is today’s cultural mainstream.

But all of this makes perfect sense if you stipulate secularism as the dominant religion on most college campuses. And to stipulate secularism is to agree that there is no objective truth, no right and wrong, and no inherent dignity to each human person.

In every interaction I have with people I strive to never make people simply a means to some other end. Even going through tolls or taking a cab, I attempt some level of human interaction with toll takers and cab drivers. Whether it’s asking how they’re doing, if they’re busy, cold, or hot. And I wish them a good day. Human interaction isn’t supposed to be a “you get yours, I get mine” negotiation. As a Christian, I believe we are here to enrich each other’s lives. We are called to love. If an institution doesn’t accept that as its premise, why would you want to attend there or pay for your children to attend there?

That’s why I believe that faithful Catholic education is the counter-revolution today. This is where the battleground is today.

I’ll sometimes hear the slander that Catholic education is almost an oxymoron as if faith and reason are mutually exclusive. Some ask how can you have education in a faith filled environment? I would ask how can you have one that’s not. Education must be more than facts, a moral force, or it is wasted. In their rush to rid every subject of theological implication, too many colleges have rid all actions of any moral implication.

We are becoming a culture without givens where every choice is valid and equal. All human interaction is judged simply by whether there was consent. Not whether it is right or wrong or harmful or helpful. Consent is the sole justification. What’s the one message on sexuality delivered on most campuses today? “No means no.” That’s it. There’s little or no discussion of the harm of the hookup culture. It’s all about consent.

In the same vein, on the wider cultural level, it’s polls. When there’s no right and wrong to argue, it inevitably comes down to a Darwinian appeal to numbers. It’s often said that this country is having heated arguments over issues like the contraception mandate and abortion. We’re not. We’re being showed polls that say a majority of women contracept or a majority believe in abortion. We don’t discuss whether any of it is right or wrong. Just if it’s been consented to by a majority. The inviolability of the soul has been replaced by the tyranny of the poll.

On many college campuses today, one of the only moral sins is racism. But racism is wrong because it devalues indiviudals. And isn’t that what sadism does? Isn’t that what the hookup culture does? Even when a person submits to it willingly, it is still submission to sin.

On too many college campuses today nothing is necessarily right but religion is definitely wrong. So colleges continue descending the slippery slope into moral anarchy and they have the ignorance to be enjoying the ride. They think the ride will last forever.

I find myself listening intently for the thud because it’s only when we hit bottom that we can start looking up and start the climb.

But no thud yet. Still falling.

Archbold: Theologians Consider HHS Mandate, Hilarity Ensues

The Catholic Theological Society of America, in their annual meeting, considered a resolution yesterday about the HHS contraceptive mandate. As you might imagine, hilarity ensued before the resolution was tabled.

You see, the poor theologians kinda’/sorta’ want to defend religious liberty because they’re perenially yelping about their own religious freedom to take white-out to the Catechism but… and this is a big “but”… many, as you might have heard, have mixed feelings about contraception. And the poor theologians had to decide if they really wanted to be seen as being on the side of the bishops vs. the beloved Obama administration?

What’s a 21st century Catholic theologian to do?

According to Commonweal, the resolution was first bogged down with a discussion as to whether they should use the name of the Obama administration in the resolution. Oh, I would’ve loved to have been there for that! They opted to not name President Obama. I wonder, did they exclude his name out of fear or reverence? Many Jews do not write the name of God out of both fear and reverence.

So here’s the full text of the resolution, according to Commonweal:

The Catholic Theological Society of America expresses deep concern with the decision of the federal government to not extend full exemption from the Department of Health and Human Services’ contraception and sterilization coverage mandate to all Catholic employers. While the society recognizes that differences of opinion exist in terms of the morality of contraception and sterilization, it also upholds religious liberty as well as the fundamental right of both individuals and institutions to not be forced to act contrary to their informed consciences. The society urges federal and state governments to exempt employers from funding or providing contraception and sterilization when such funding or provision directly violates the moral tenets of the employer’s religious tradition.

According to Commonweal, one of the sponsors of the resolution assured everyone that the statement was a simple affirmation of religious freedom. “Nothing more, nothing less” the board member reportedly said, adding that it’s not a political statement, an ideological statement, or an ethical statement.

Simple, right?  Easy to approve.

But wait, did you really think that for a moment a group of American theologians could gather on the issue of the contraceptive mandate and not sympathize with the Obama administration’s aim of covering the costs for sterilization, contraception and abortifacients?

According to Commonweal:

One member noted that “Dignitatis Humanae,” the normative document on the Catholic Church’s understanding of religious freedom, states that while government must respect the corporate and individual right to religious freedom, that right is guaranteed “within due limits.” One of those limits is “justice and the fundamental rights of persons.” An argument could be made, the member said, that on the basis of the teaching of Vatican II, the contraception mandate presents an appropriate limit on the religious freedom of some people. Yes, the group could get into a long debate about how to interpret such matters, but the resolution itself doesn’t address these issues with sufficient complexity.

Yes, because dialogue should always lead to increased complexity. And as if in answer to the call for increased complexity, in came another theologian espousing the need to pick a nit.

…another member stood to point out that the resolution, as written, holds that any business should be exempted from the mandate–in other words, it endorses the so-called Taco Bell exemption. She also said that the resolution presents a curious, if not incoherent, notion of corporate conscience. The tradition lacks a commonly accepted theology that allows us to know what we mean when we talk about informed institutional conscience.

And then, confusing everyone, an ecclesiologist spoke up suddenly in support of the statement, calling the mandate’s definition of religious employer “profoundly un-Catholic, sectarian, introverted, and cultic.”

(Anyone share my concern about the whereabouts of that ecclesiologist today?)

Another member wondered why the resolution did not use the terms “religious institution” or “church.”

Oh, how the polysyllabic cacophony reverberated throughout the space, delighting all. And just when it seemed that the theologians might accomplish nothing, another theologian bravely rose with a piercing solution that left all in awe of the member’s courageous problem-solving ability.

He asked to table the vote. So they could talk more about it another day! Yay!!!

According to Commonweal, the theologian was concerned that “the CTSA would not be in the public media as appearing to be against or for the U.S. bishops”.

Thank goodness that was avoided, because you can’t have people getting the wrong idea that theologians are opposed to the bishops on anything, even though earlier that week the board of the CTSA accused the Vatican of not understanding the definition of theology.

But back to the action.

“We need a motion,” the chair exclaimed! The motion came and was passed by voice vote – nearly unanimously. The issue of religious freedom was heroically tabled.

As Commonweal reported, “Problem solved. For now.”

Dialogue has won us all… more dialogue.

Archbold: Am I Just Too Busy to Rally for Religious Freedom Tomorrow?

I’ve got all sorts of reasons to not attend that Rally for Religious Freedom tomorrow in Philadelphia.

1) I’ve got five kids and I’d have to get them out of school early.

2) Philadelphia is about an hour away.

3) It’s finals week and my kids have to study.

4) My three oldest girls have a softball game that night. And I’m the coach.

5) What does it really accomplish because the media’s not going to cover it anyway?

6) I’m still a little ticked that the Archdiocese is closing down my children’s school.

I’ve got many more reasons for not attending the rally tomorrow. And some of them are pretty darn good reasons.

But you know what – I’m going to attend the rally anyway, along with my five kids because I know that if we don’t win this fight, religious liberty in this country will become empty words on a page written over 200 years ago.

Please do your best to stand in solidarity with the bishops and the dozens of Catholic colleges and institutions that are standing up for religious liberty. They need to know they’re not alone in this struggle. For years, so many Catholics have wondered why this bishop or that Cardinal didn’t stand up or speak forcefully on a certain issue. Well, this time they’re standing up and speaking out in an almost unprecedented show of solidarity. We must stand with them now.

Even if the media ignores all of us just as they do every year when we March for Life, be assured that our brothers and sisters in Christ will be looking to see if we stand up for religious liberty. So will the White House. Oh yes, the White House in this election year will most assuredly be watching. So let’s give them something to watch.

Archbold: Commonweal’s “But”

The editors of Commonweal want you to know that they’re all for religious liberty but (and this is a big “but”) they believe the bishops are behaving in too partisan a manner and are actually hurting the struggle for religious liberty.

The editors today scolded the bishops for what they term “the partisan” nature of the bishops’ statement, Our First, Most Cherished Liberty, which calls on Catholics to engage in the struggle for religious liberty.

Oddly, while chastising the bishops, the editors can’t bring themselves to admit that religious liberty is actually under attack from the Obama administration. They refer to the threat as “what the bishops characterize as unprecedented threats to religious freedom” or “the supposed efforts of government to curtail the free exercise of religion.”

Supposed? What’s “supposed” about forcing Catholic institutions to provide abortifacients that kill little humans — you know, the ones that some characterize as babies?

The greatest threats acknowledged by the editors are vague “influential currents of opinion today that advocate restricting the presence of religion in public life.”

Some call it “influential currents of opinion,” while others call it “the President of the United States.”

The editors write:

There should be considerable room for government to cooperate with religious groups as with other non-governmental bodies in serving the common good. Unfortunately, the argument made by the bishops as well as their proposed tactics for public action undermine their case. Worse, the tenor of the bishops’ statement runs the risk of making this into a partisan issue during a presidential election in which the leaders of one party have made outlandish claims about a “war on religion” or a “war against the Catholic Church.”

They worry that the fight for religious liberty seems partisan, but whose fault is that? It’s one party that’s attacking religious liberty right now. Should the bishops also attack the political party that’s defending religious liberty? Isn’t that a bit like shooting the guy in the foxhole with you, just so the enemy thinks you’re being fair?

Then the editors, fresh from their call to moderate the rhetoric, accuse the bishops of “exaggerating.” That’s “lying” to you and me.

The USCCB’s statement vastly exaggerates the extent to which American freedoms of all sorts and of religious freedom in particular are threatened. Church-state relations are complicated, requiring the careful weighing of competing moral claims. The USCCB’s statement fails to acknowledge that fact.

Funny how all those complicated competing moral claims survived those 200-plus years before the Obama administration, huh?

Then, the editors, likely realizing that their arguments aren’t very strong, attempt to distract by accusing the bishops of ignoring other pressing problems.

Worse, strangely absent from the list of examples provided by the bishops is the best-documented case of growing hostility to religious presence in the United States: hostility to Islam. Unless the bishops correct that oversight, their statement will only feed the impression that this “campaign” for religious freedom has been politically tailored. This silence is especially striking in view of the parallels between anti-Muslim sentiment today and the prejudice encountered by Catholic immigrants in the nineteenth century.

This is a distraction. It’s like the editors just yelled, “Look over here! It’s a shiny Muslim thing.”

Here’s the issue. The bishops are fighting for religious liberty rights for all, not just Catholics. That’s the thing about human rights. They’re for all humans. You don’t actually have to single out each person or religion. And are the bishops really not allowed to speak about other issues without bringing up protecting Muslims? It seems to me that in this country right now, Muslims have more legal protections than polar bears, while it is open season on Catholics — with some of the hunters among the ranks of Commonweal.

Finally, the editors lament that the bishops’ partisanship is actually hurting the cause of religious liberty. Yes, the bishops should just stand down and leave defending religious liberty up to the editors of Commonweal, the “supposed” magazine which some “characterize” as a Catholic publication.

You see, it turns out that Commonweal doesn’t actually have a problem with authority. It’s just been the wrong authority all these years.