Tuesday, August 28, 2012

American Kulturkampf

The 19th century Kulturkampf (literally Culture War or Culture Struggle) of Germany is an important event to consider for 21st century America because of what it was – the transformation of hostility towards Catholicism into an attempt by the government to control and limit the Church.  I believe it is important to be aware of what happened then because, unlike other historical events, this one can be duplicated.

Preliminary Note

This is not an "Obama = Hitler" article.  I don't approve of that meme.  Obama is Obama.  Hitler is Hitler.  Hitler's rise to power and subsequent actions depended on attitudes and political conditions not found in America.  Hitler was an extreme German nationalist who believed in a strong Germanic volk at the expense of other peoples and nations.  Obama appears to believe that his policies will benefit all people, but "right wingers" are trying to block his policies.

In contrast, the current Kulturkampf is an event which began before Obama, and may continue after he has left office.  Obama is certainly taking part in the Kulturkampf, but it does not depend on him.

What Was the Kulturkampf?

The Kulturkampf arose in 19th century Germany from an attitude from different factions of society which believed Catholicism was harmful to a strong Germany.  Specifically it was a combination of the nationalist state, nominal Catholics and certain hostile Protestants.  This hostility began at a time when the Catholic Church in Germany was awakening the morals of German Catholics.  The factions in question made accusations of the Church interfering in politics and of intolerance – of trying to impose their values on others.  They were accused of being enemies of progress.

Basically, it was assumed that Catholicism was in opposition to what was "right."  Therefore, for the good of the people, Catholicism had to be opposed.

The attacks began with trying to change public opinion to assume that the Catholic teachings were unnatural.  Isolated scandals were portrayed as the norm for the Church.  The clergy was treated as predatory, controlling and heartless to the concerns of the people.  It was argued that the Church had no right to teach as she did and needed to change.

Once the state became involved we began to see attempts through law to target the Church.  It was argued certain Catholic institutions were not protected under the concept of the freedom of religion.  Gradually, attempts were made to remove Church control from their properties, instituting fines against Catholics that did not comply with demands of the State and fines against churches which spoke out against the wrongdoing of the state from the pulpit.

Eventually it got to the point where the state demanded the right to choose who would fill Church positions, often preventing these positions from being filled.  Bishops and priests were jailed for refusing to comply.

Essentially, the Kulturkampf was an attempt to silence the Church and limit her when her activities did not serve the state.

Similarities to Today are Striking

Now of course there are some differences between today and then.  Today, faithful Protestants are standing with the Church against the government, recognizing the government and not the Church is the threat.  The state has not (yet?) attempted to control who can become a priest or bishop or jailed clergy for opposing them.  The state is not motivated by nationalism, but by a belief that Christian morality is a restriction of "rights."

But for the most part, the similarities between 19th century Germany and 21st century America are undeniable.  Political factions, nominal Catholics and Protestants, and the state itself is attempting to dictate to the Church whether her institutions can follow Church teaching in the realm of sexual morality.  The Church is deemed backwards and contrary to American values of freedom by refusing to compromise on issues like the HHS mandate, abortion and "gay marriage."

It is claimed that the Catholic hospitals and universities are not protected by the freedom of religion because they serve more than Catholics.

Scandals are portrayed as being universal within the Church, when they are not.

Ultimately, the portrayal is that Catholics who are faithful to the Church are dangerous right wingers who need to be isolated.

What Are We to Do?

Catholics today do need to be aware of the fact that groups hostile to us are trying to use the law to infringe on our religious freedoms.  What we will need to do is to explain and defend the faith and demonstrate to people of good will that this is not merely a "Catholic Issue."  It is an issue of freedom which harms everyone if the government is not opposed.

We will have to show both the issue of religious freedom and demonstrate why the Catholic moral teachings are right.  The former is necessary to alert people to the dangers of a government violating the Constitution unchallenged.  The latter is necessary to explain to people why contraception and abortion are not issues of "rights" but of reducing people to things.

We also need to be responsible voters.  Ultimately the supporters of the German Kulturkampf suffered reverses in elections and some of the most hostile to the Church were voted out.  We can't say, "Well this politician is bad on religious freedom, but I like his stand on taxes, so I'll vote for him anyway."  We have to realize that the greatest threats must be dealt with first.

As the US Bishops said in 1998:

Any politics of human life must work to resist the violence of war and the scandal of capital punishment. Any politics of human dignity must seriously address issues of racism, poverty, hunger, employment, education, housing, and health care.  Catholics should eagerly involve themselves as advocates for the weak and marginalized in all these areas. Catholic public officials are obliged to address each of these issues as they seek to build consistent policies which promote respect for the human person at all stages of life. But being 'right' in such matters can never excuse a wrong choice regarding direct attacks on innocent human life. Indeed, the failure to protect and defend life in its most vulnerable stages renders suspect any claims to the 'rightness' of positions in other matters affecting the poorest and least powerful of the human community. If we understand the human person as the "temple of the Holy Spirit" -- the living house of God -- then these latter issues fall logically into place as the crossbeams and walls of that house. All direct attacks on innocent human life, such as abortion and euthanasia, strike at the house's foundation.

(Living the Gospel of Life #23.  Italics original.  Underline added for emphasis)

Yes, there are many issues the Church teaches about.  However, as the Bishops wisely pointed out. when the fundamental values are attacked, those attackers who support the secondary values are suspect.

Catholics and Non-Catholics of good faith need to recognize that we cannot be complacent.  When faced with a government overtly hostile to our moral teachings and seeking to demand of us that we disobey our Church, we must oppose that government as part of our correcting the person in error.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Propaganda and Lies: Exactly Who Is Trying to Impose on Who?

In the online version of the Guardian is a story about the fight to defend traditional marriage.  What caught my eye (and raised my ire) was the quote made by a "Gay marriage" activist:

"It is increasingly clear that the church has an anti-gay agenda that it wants to impose on the rest of society," said Tom French, policy co-ordinator of the Equality Network. "We urge the Scottish government to stand firm on plans to introduce equal marriage and not give in to demands that would discriminate against LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] people."

Funny sort of imposition here.  The Scottish government is trying to make these "gay marriage ceremonies" available by 2015.  The Catholic Church is opposing this change.  Yet, it is the Catholic Church which is accused of imposing an agenda.

It would be more accurate to say that it is the Scottish government which is trying to impose an agenda – the agenda being to deny there are any differences between the heterosexual marriage and a homosexual relationship.

Look at the sequence:

  1. Christian moral teaching on sexuality exists
  2. In the early 21st century, certain activists attempt to pass laws which attack the long existing Christian moral teaching
  3. The Christians are accused of imposing their pre-existing views because they try to defend their views

Unfortunately this sequence is ignored when there is a dispute over moral issues.  The faction which is attempting to impose a change declares their own position is the "neutral" position, and the one who opposes it is the "extremist."  This is an ad hominem attack, using a label to vilify the opponent rather than refute the challenge.

It also is a dishonest attack that attempts to cast the faction attempting to impose the change as the referee instead of one of the combatants.  It is claimed, without proof, that the belief in favor of "gay marriage" or abortion or the contraception mandate is "right" and the opposition is extremist or homophobic or anti-woman.

But the claim that these changes are right is what needs to be proven to begin with!  To prove the point, the premise needs to be have a source of reason, ground or evidence for its truth other than the conclusion of the argument.

Being aware of the Slavery and Racism counter-arguments and why they are not relevant

Now, it is true that in some cultures, vicious custom and corrupt habit (see Summa Theologica I-IIa Q94. A 6) which have been long accepted do need to be opposed because they are contrary to the natural law.  Slavery and other forms of racism are valid examples of this.  However, it would be wrong to automatically assume that anything which is challenged is automatically in the wrong while the faction challenging it is automatically right.

Unfortunately this is the basic assumption when it comes to attacking Christian morality.  It is argued that opposition to "gay marriage" is based on homophobia in the same way as favoring slavery is based on racism.  The problem is, again, this has to be proved.  It is not proven.

(Christian teaching appeared at a time when slavery was already existing and accepted. I'm not going to derail the topic by people slinging Bible verses in an attempt to argue Christianity was to the right of the KKK.  Colossians 3:22-4:1 was dealing with how converts who were slaves or slave owners were obligated to be loving to each other. It never gave approval to to the existence of slavery. Galatians 3:26-29 is needed to put the Paul's statement into context).

It is a sad fact that many Christians did keep slaves (as did many non Christians), but that was a vicious custom kept by some Christians and not a tenet of Christianity itself.  However, it does not follow that Christians following a vicious custom in the case of slavery means that Christians follow a vicious custom in the case of calling homosexual acts sinful.

Again, we have people who make that claim assuming as proven exactly what they need to prove.


This is a common tactic in the modern culture struggle.  Those who are attacking are accusing the Christians of being on the attack, when in fact the Christians are who are defending their beliefs.  Unfortunately all too many people are falling for the propaganda.  Men and women of good faith need to recognize this propaganda and to reject it.  They need to realize that these activists are using their rhetoric to impose their beliefs without establishing that they are true.

We need to realize that far from Christians being dispensers of that which is hateful and intolerant, it is their opponents who are using deceptive arguments and propaganda to distort what the actual issue is.  They need to justify to the world why their case is TRUE, and not merely label us as "homophobic" and declare their position as proven.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

On Hiatus

My computer tends to shut off every 20-30 minutes, which is hardly long enough to work on a blog article.  I hope to keep studying and writing until I get a machine which is more reliable and then begin blogging again.  I may post now and again if I get access to borrow someone else's machine.


May God Bless you all and I hope this hiatus is shorter rather than longer.


EDIT: I find with the side of the computer removed and a fan blowing, I can increase my computer's activity.  Hopefully this will last until I can get a new machine.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

And WE'RE The Bigots?

There seems to be a popular internet picture going around Facebook at this time in response to the Chick-Fil-A events of this past week:

[EDIT: Picture removed. It was a picture of Jesus saying he hated FIGS—a play on words with the vulgar term for people with same sex attraction. Because that picture was somewhat blasphemous and because the picture it was posted in opposition to no longer exists, it makes no sense to keep it here.]

The point is to argue Christians who support traditional marriage share the same views as the Westboro Baptists who post reprehensible signs like this:

[EDIT: Sometime between 2012 and 2017, this hot-linked picture was removed. It was of the Westboro Baptists offering offensive slogans against people with same sex attraction]

But the Catholic teaching is:

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.”142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved. (2333)
2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.
2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection. (2347)

Catholic Church. (2000). Catechism of the Catholic Church (2nd Ed.) (566). Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference. (Emphasis added)
So, what we have is actually an act of bigotry – but not by Christians.  What we see is gross stereotyping that presumes all Christians think the same way as the Westboro Baptists, when in fact most Christians condemn their grossly unchristian behavior.  It's basically like assuming all Muslims are terrorists because a few groups are, or that all Hispanics are illegal aliens because some are.  It's grossly intolerant to assume from the behavior of some that all are this way.
One of the main problems I see is the Either-Or fallacy (sometimes called the Black or White fallacy). The argument runs in this case:
  1. Either you [support "gay marriage"] or you [are homophobic]. (Either A or B)
  2. You Do not [support "gay marriage."] (Not A)
  3. Therefore you [are homophobic.] (Therefore B)
The reason this is a fallacy is because the main premise assumes [A] and [B] are not only in opposition to each other (which they are), but are the only two options – which they are NOT. If there is any option [C] out there (opposes "gay marriage" but not out of hatred), then the argument is invalid and the claim is not proven true.
Many people seem incapable of recognizing that third option exists, so let's put the shoe on the other foot.
  1. Either you [Support Traditional Marriage] or you are an [Anti-Catholic bigot]. (Either A or B).
  2. You don't [Support Traditional Marriage] (Not A)
  3. Therefore you are an [Anti-Catholic bigot] (Therefore B).
I suspect most people who disagree with Traditional definitions of marriage would object to this. "Hey! Just because I think they are wrong doesn't mean we hate Catholics!"
Right, and that's my answer to you.  Just because we consider a certain behavior to be wrong does not mean we believe God hates people struggling with homosexual tendencies – or even people who are committing homosexual acts.  All people have struggles with sin, and all of us are to call on God to give us the grace to overcome our sins.  We may fall at times, but we need to continue to persevere.
If a person fails to distinguish between this and the view of the Westboro Baptists, perhaps the problem with intolerance isn't with those who believe in the Christian understanding of Marriage.