Back to the future… or the end of the road?

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Can it really be this bad?
A British Conservative government minister, Justine Greening, says that gender is virtually meaningless by proposing to let adults come in off the street and change it at will. “Pronoun Committees” on campus warn, “If you fail to respect someone else’s gender identity, it is not only disrespectful and hurtful, but also oppressive.” Does anyone hear an echo, “Committee of Public Safety”? From there it was but a short step to the guillotine. Mozzilla’s CEO was removed from the company he founded because he privately supported traditional marriage – and that was also disrespectful, hurtful and oppressive. It certainly was for him – but that didn’t matter. A Google engineer is the latest casualty of the thought police because he expressed an opinion of doubtful orthodoxy.

This is just a very small sample from a long catalogue of seemingly mad events which are taking place around us. But they are not mad. They are the result of a cold, calculated dogma that has pervaded our culture. We are, in truth, not a million miles, not even a few hundred miles from the nightmare of Stalinist Russia, where to write an opera (Prokofiev), compose a symphony (Shostakovich) or pen a novel (Pasternak) which was out of synch with the ideology of the State would reduce your career to ashes and even endanger your very life.

Is there anyone out there prepared to defend mankind from this self-destructive ideology? Yes there is, perhaps too timidly yet, but the principles are sound and if this onslaught of injustice persists then surely the perennial voice of reason will be heard loud and clear.

For seventy-plus years Marxism was a political force in the Soviet Union, backed up by a lethal totalitarian state. In that time the one enemy which it constantly singled out for annihilation was the Christian religion. Wherever Christians were found the grotesque regime’s apparatus  first sought to corrupt them. Failing that it sought to crush them. After soviet Russia led the way a handful of Eastern European followed under its tutelage – or its tanks. China and some Asian countries then joined the monstrous regiment and in the fifties and sixties of the last century the ideology made a largely unsuccessful attempt to subvert Latin America.

Eventually, bearing within itself the seeds of its own destruction, the states which embraced it began to crumble and fall. But to the very end Christianity remained its perpetual enemy and number one target for persecution and extermination. Even in the last decade of its hegemony it sought to assassinate – and almost succeeded – the Vicar of Christ on Earth.

Why was this so? Why should the followers of a peace-loving prophet from 2000 years ago be such a threat to what at first sight might be described as just one more attempt to solve the problems mankind faces in organising this world to meet the daily needs of its inhabitants?

It was so because the vision of humanity held by the followers of Jesus Christ, based on the belief and understanding that this God-man in fact created the world and all that is in it, is radically at odds with that of Karl Marx, his antecedents and his disciples. The essential contradictions inherent in the Marxist vision of man, its utterly flawed anthropology, eventually killed it – but not before it left tens of millions dead in its wake. These contradictions, these flaws, were called out and opposed by authentic Christianity from the moment they first made their appearance. For that reason Christians became the constant and number one enemy and Marxists had to corrupt them or wipe them off the face of the earth. Despite pretences to the contrary, peaceful co-existence for a thorough and clear-sighted Marxist was never going to be an option with this enemy in full bloom.

We may feel relieved that this form of Marxism, while not extinct, is now largely moribund. That would be naive. Marxism itself is still with us in an even more insidious form, currently seeking to corrupt but increasingly looking like reverting to its crushing mode once again. Because it is no longer a unified ideology it is even more dangerous and pervasive. Its new suit of clothes was acquired from what we call the Frankfurt School. Here, already divining the self-destructive excesses of Soviet Communism in the 1930s, adherents of the basic core of Marx’s materialistic determinism articulated a “new improved model” which we now call neo-Marxism. This new manifestation of Marxism, often not even calling itself Marxism, again sees itself confronted with the same enemy – the Christians.

The core materialism which was at the heart of Das Kapital and the Communist Manifesto is also at the heart of this new Marxism. This is the central error of the ideology which Christians must of necessity oppose. It must set its face against it because it is an error which denies the central truths of man’s nature and essence. From this central error springs a series of maladies which are now afflicting Western society and which in time will also spread to every other cultural environment on the planet: from it springs gross consumerism; rampant individualism of the “me, me, me” variety – proclaiming absolute freedom which is no freedom at all. From it also flows the scourge of gender ideology and all that it spawns; finally, the ideology which proclaims the right to destroy human life before birth and force its termination before its natural end.

But making a stand against the materialistic ideology of our time is to rule you out as a candidate for public service. We remember the rejection by the European parliament of Rocco Buttiglione. They haven’t gone away, you know. Governor Sam Brownback has been nominated by the President of America to join his administration as an ambassador for religious freedom. The so-called Human Rights Campaign, beloved of Barak Obama and the Clintons, which says Christian ministers should be forced to not only publicly approve of homosexuality but endorse it officially with God’s blessing, is outraged.  They are outraged because Gov. Brownback has defended the rights of Christian and other religious student groups to have membership standards consistent with the group’s religious affiliation. For them, to require members of Christian groups to believe Christ’s teaching amounts to promoting “hateful discrimination”. Most hateful of all of course is the fact that, as governor, Brownback supported Reality Birth Certificates that note biological sex. They consider biological reality and genetic science to be a “deadly” prejudice and an attack on one’s true “identity,” which for them is oh-so-solidly and rationally based on feelings and one’s current whim. Cue Justine Greening.

The warning signs are there that a new hegemony of this ideology is already with us. We can now see a new era of materialistic ideology slowly – or maybe not so slowly – gaining ground in the political square, in the halls of learning and in the schools where it is being inculcated in our children.

Last week, Campus Reform reported a lecturer at the University of Michigan advocating the “retraining of preschool children to make them less heteronormative.” Defining “heteronormativity” as a culture in which “heterosexuality is always assumed, expected, ordinary, and privileged,” she argues that the issue is especially important because preschools contribute to the “reproduction of inequalities pertaining to gender and sexuality,” such as gender roles and “gendered feelings”.

Furthermore, this new materialism is now being voluntarily adopted lock stock and barrel by political establishments in state after state around the world. They euphemistically call it “evolution in their thinking”; they call it getting in step with history; what they fail to do is call it what it really is: indoctrination in an ideology which is errant nonsense.

An example of the consequences: working within the laws which our indoctrinated legislators have put in place for our common good, we were told last week that a man has given birth to a baby. We negate the judgement of our sense and the principles of biological science when we call a woman a man. This is the “progress” of progressivism. In a similar case in Sweden, a woman manages to grow a beard and calls herself a man. She then gets pregnant by a man who thinks he is a woman and between them they have two children. These children in their turn are deliberately not being told what they are, boy or girl. They will decide for themselves. The truth is they won’t. They will be what they are and that is it.

The probability is that by writing this I am breaking a law. What law it is or in what country I might be prosecuted I do not know for sure. But I suspect that that some law brands me as a “hate-criminal” and  I am sure that the time is not far distant when the law will catch up with people who point out the folly and injustice of these ideas. Since breaking laws incurs punishments they will be punished.

Do I exaggerate? No. The esteemed University of West Virginia has warned its staff and students that referring to someone by the “wrong” gender pronoun is a violation of federal anti-discrimination laws. In a totally different jurisdiction, Dr. Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor in the University of Toronto, refused to adhere to the university’s policies on pronouns, requiring him to refer to students  as “ve”,”ver” or “vis”. He was threatened with legal action.

From the time of Adam man has known sin. Human history gives an account  of how we cope with the consequences of our malice and our weaknesses. It is often a sad story, it is can be salutary, it is sometimes heroic. But this is a different sin. Until modern times mankind’s understanding of our wrong turnings have been, in a sense, within the parameters of our own nature. The Judaeo-Christian response to those wrong turnings was corrective and didactic. We often resisted correction and were slow learners – but seldom if ever did we reject them on the basis of their being unnatural, alien, or foreign to what was deemed to be the very nature of the species. That, with Marxism, has all changed. The Judaeo-Christian vision of man and the Marxist vision of man are now radically and fatally at variance. Mankind is now engaged in a fight to the death. If Marxism is victorious in that conflict then mankind is doomed to self-destruct. We are very near the Gates of Hell – but Christians do have a promise about that.

From dysphoria to dysfunction?

gender-wars

Pia de Solenni is an American moral theologian. Last night she talked in Dublin to a group of people who came to hear her views on issues related to gender and the deconstruction of millennia of understanding about human nature and the sexes which is now in progress.

While the question was asked, and answered, about where all this has come from – with Descartes being something of a villain of the piece – and the question of where it was all going being at least tentatively answered – down the tubes being one scary option, the real quandary was something we had to go home and think about: what can be done to save the day?

My notes from her talk were not very comprehensive and  I would not dare to try to recapitulate all that she said. However, in 2013, the National Catholic Register published an article which she wrote. In it some of the key influences and observations which underpinned last night’s talk are contained in it. They offer some clues as to how we might escape from this quandary.

It was entitled ‘Theology of Women in the Church’ Only Beginning to Be Revealed. It harked back to some words of Pope Francis on this now famous exchanges with journalists on this flight back from World Youth Day in the summer of that year, when he simply observed that  ‘we don’t have a deep theology of women in the Church.’ Her article continues :

His comments were a timely preface for the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (The Dignity and Vocation of Women), marked by this year’s Solemnity of the Assumption.

When I was doing graduate theology work in Rome, the document had been out for many years. John Paul II had continued to teach on the topic and had articulated the need for a “new feminism.”

However, as one of my friends observed, the common translation of this “new feminism” was a type of elitist feminism. It was applicable to women who were well educated, had successful careers and were married with children and household help.

While I was on my way to being well educated, I certainly didn’t have the rest of the ensemble. I was studying with priests and seminarians, mostly. I had no desire to join their ranks, despite our common discipline. At the same time, my friend was educated and married with small children. But working outside of the home would have placed too great a burden on her family. We also knew there were plenty of other women who didn’t fit the mold. I was convinced that the new feminism had to include all of the various states in the lives of women, not just educated, affluent wives and mothers.

This became the impetus for my doctoral work, in which I surveyed various feminist and gender theories to explore why the questions of feminine identity and vocation remained. I then used the thought of Thomas Aquinas, a saint and a brilliant doctor of the Church (sometimes inaccurately identified as a misogynist), to develop a feminism of complementarity or an integral feminism, one that sees the sexual differences as constructive. I wanted a feminism that considered a woman in her entirety, not just in terms of what she did or didn’t do: a new feminism.

As I progressed in my research, I realized just how visionary Pope John Paul II had been. He wasn’t offering a Catholic version of a fascist salute to motherhood. He was taking the concept of motherhood in a wholly different direction. After all, by the time he was writing, the developed world knew that women could match, and even surpass, men in most things. Instead of answering a question that had long sought an answer by defining women in terms of what men do, he focused on who a woman is, a much more elusive topic.

Still, my first reading of Mulieris didn’t satisfy me. I thought it was fine, but not meaty enough. It took a while before I saw that it was both subtle and groundbreaking, particularly in light of his other work. Six years after this apostolic letter, he wrote another, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone). For such a controversial topic, it was certainly a short document, just a few pages. He summarized Church teaching and almost abruptly concluded, “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

From this point on, John Paul II stopped talking about women’s ordination. He focused on Mary, the woman, whom, in Mulieris, he had set up as a paradigm for all humanity, including himself and every other priest, by virtue of her response to God’s call.

The shift to Mary emphasizes the change in emphasis from doing to being. We actually know very little about what Mary did. But we know who she is: the Mother of God. Her ability to become a mother fundamentally enabled her to be open to God in a relationship that only a woman could have. Her response, uniquely feminine, paradoxically, became the model for all humanity.

Toward the end of John Paul’s life, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, under Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, issued a letter to the bishops, The Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World, which emphasized that women “have a role in every aspect of society.”

If we follow the example of Mary, that means working from within, wherever we happen to be, whether as chancellor of a major archdiocese, a mother home with small children, in business, politics or countless other places. It means recognizing that women bring something to the table by virtue of who they are rather than simply by what they do.

If Mary’s role as homemaker had been so vital, Jesus would have left the preparation of the Passover meal to her and not to the apostles. (I’m willing to bet she would’ve put on a better spread.) She was defined by who she was, by her relationship with Jesus, not by what she did. Similarly, we know that the apostles weren’t the smartest or the holiest bunch of men. But Jesus didn’t pick them for their accomplishments.

Twenty-five years after Mulieris Dignitatem, women have more positions in Church offices, and certainly women could have more leadership, but the vocation of women can’t be limited to a clericalist framework. Women, like men, exist in every sector of society, and both have critical contributions to make, regardless of what they do, because being a woman or a man should constructively influence the outcome. Within the Church, women need to be able to have a unique voice, not one that mimics that of men.

Pope Francis’ comments indicate that this work has only just begun.

Much, much more will be required to get us to the point where we understand both women and men for who they are.

On the more explicit gender confusion issue which she spoke about last night this article which she posted on Crux last year covers many of the points she made to us. Again, they give us something to chew on and think through about what might be the best way to rescue ourselves from the quagmire into which we find ourselves sinking fast.

Throughout history, women have been denigrated and oppressed by men. While I don’t always agree with some feminist activists, I certainly acknowledge that I would not have had the opportunities that I have without feminist efforts to right so many wrongs.

Despite these advances, today’s “trans movement” (particularly the transwoman sector) inadvertently takes us back to a time when women were valued based on their appearance, and whether they fit someone else’s preconceived notion of femininity. In essence, all it takes to be a woman today are [fake] breasts and good hair.

As a culture, we are telling women that the feelings and sentiments of a particular group of men – in this case, men who regard themselves as women – matter more than they do. That’s patriarchy by definition, even if women happen to agree to it.

Yes, some individuals suffer from gender dysphoria, but I am very hesitant to say that their struggle gives them the right to identify with the sex of their choice. As a woman, I cannot concede that being female simply means that one wears makeup, sexy lingerie, and a hair-do.

In fact, I was raised in a post-feminist environment where my femininity was not measured by my bra size and whether I could arouse a man. Rather, my female identity was confirmed by science, which demonstrates that every cell of my being is female no matter how I look or what I do.

My being a woman literally has to do with my being, not my doing. Hence, I can live out my life without fitting some ideal of a woman, whether it’s Mad Men’s or anybody else’s.

Let’s be clear here: No one cares about a woman using the men’s restroom. The Target debate has focused on men using women’s restrooms, because most people understand that women and girls are physically vulnerable in a way that men are not.

Whether we’re talking about Target, or states that have passed legislation along the same lines, the practical result now is that any man, whether he’s identifying as a woman or looking for his next victim, may use the women’s restroom because he feels like it.

So much for women’s rights.

Nevertheless, the bathroom discussion is couched in the language of civil rights and discrimination. Talk about a culture-war trap. In fact, on Monday the Justice Department filed a civil-rights suit against the state of North Carolina because it refuses to rescind a bill that requires individuals to use the bathroom correlating with their biological sex.

Some forms of patriarchy include attempts to protect women from other males, but that’s really more of an excuse to protect women for a particular man or group of men. Worse types of patriarchy utterly disregard the dignity and significance of a woman.

Rather than a civil rights issue, I would argue that the bathroom wars indicate that we’re entering an entirely new phase of patriarchy which declares victory every time it destroys a safe space for women, including bathrooms, fitting rooms, locker rooms, and so on.

This new patriarchy scored a breakthrough when Bruce Jenner, in his April 2015 interview with Diane Sawyer, casually commented that he looked forward to becoming a woman so that he could paint his nails and drink wine with his girlfriends. Jenner equated being a woman with the most trivial accidentals, while mainstream media outlets, including awards from Glamour and ESPN, celebrated his courage.

Never mind that he couldn’t even stand for his Vanity Fair debut, lest we see that his male anatomy remained.

Another defeat for women came after Jenner’s transition to a new identity as Caitlyn, when he (perhaps channeling his inner Dionne Warwick) famously stated that the hardest part about being a woman was deciding what to wear each day. Patriarchy triumphed again.

Time after time, the new patriarchy reinforces that being a woman is simply about the externals, what you look like. Cue Hugh Hefner.

Again, some individuals suffer greatly from gender dysphoria, and they should be treated with respect and dignity. But their struggles cannot justify yet another era in which women are reduced to nothing more than body parts and their ability to satisfy a man, even if it’s one and the same person.

Pia de Solenni is a moral theologian and cultural analyst. She serves as the Associate Dean of the Augustine Institute – Orange County, California.

Science off the rails

Harald Eia – bewildering stuff

If you did nothing else today but take the 30+ minutes you will need to watch this video your day will be well-spent. It gives a light-hearted but also a chilling example of how intelligent people allow ideology to corrupt both science and our political life and culture. In it we see a bewildered handful of serious scientists trying to come to terms with another group blinded by the politically correct ideology which is currently the driving force behind social policy in the West.

The counter-culture pendulum

In the 1960s Simone de Beauvoir was at the heart of the counter-culture of that age. As the Pope reminded us in his pre-Christmas address she advanced the then-radical view that one is not born a woman, but one becomes so – that sex was no longer an element of nature but a social role people chose for themselves. Her theory applied quid pro quo to men. She, with her boyfriend, Jean-Paul Sartre, were the icons of the sexual revolution.

Fifty years later who is the leader of the new counter-culture in the West? Pope Benedict XVI is the answer. In a half-century the cultural pendulum has swung so far in the direction of Simone de Beauvoir’s view that we can now look at a routine questionnaire from an agency as commonplace as Stockport Council in Manchester and find a question asking “Is your gender identity the same as the gender you were assigned with at birth?”

In the 1950s and ‘60s the killing of babies in the womb was a crime, an offence against the person in the legislation of most Western countries. A map of the world then, showing where a child in the womb was considered to be a human being, is a radically different one form a similar map today. The international uproar reflected in media across the globe in the aftermath of the death of Savita Halappavanar in an Irish hospital last November – where it was alleged, without any reliable evidence, that she died because she was refused an abortion – was an astounding snapshot of the cultural and moral change which has taken place. With a total disregard for the facts of the case – and for the truth that Ireland’s maternity hospitals are among the safest places in the world for both mothers and children –  the country was branded a pariah among the nations for its refusal to buy into a culture which legislates for the wanton destruction of human life in the womb. But ever there now, its PC-conscious political establishment seems determined to go with the flow and succumb to the concerted pressure for the international media, the UN, the EU – and Hilary Clinton.

Add to this the gradual acceptance of homosexual activity as just one more mode of sexual expression, along with the knock-on effect this is having on definitions of family and marriage, and you see that the social and cultural conventions of Western society have experienced a seismic shift. And who stands firm in the face of this? The Catholic Church and its moral leaders of the past 50 years – Pope Pau VI whose encyclical Humanae Vitae affirmed the anthropologically and moral foundations of its teaching on the nature and purpose of human sexuality; Pope John Paul II whose 27 years of tireless teaching and pastoral activity reaffirmed and developed the culture of life; and now Pope Benedict XVI whom only the blind – and there are multitudes of them – will not acknowledge as the leading public intellectual of our time.

All of them have done so in the face of near constant opposition from the spokespersons of the new conventional wisdom. Furthermore, Pope Benedict now does so in the face of triumphant cries of victory from the forces opposing this teaching. It might seem that the scheme laid out by Mammon for a new post-paradise world in John Milton’ Paradise Lost has come to pass as the Masters of this world seek to turn the desert of relativism into some kind of Heaven.

As he our darkness, cannot we his Light
Imitate when we please? This Desart soile
Wants not her hidden lustre;
Nor want we skill or Art, from whence to raise
Magnificence; and what can Heav’n shew more?

But Pope Benedict is having none of it. He knows that those “Gemms and Gold” are disastrous illusions.  Recognising that at the heart of the new rebellion against God there is fundamentally a rebellion against man himself, he focused in that pre-Christmas address on the fear of commitment to anyone other than “self” in the modern world. Rhetorically he asked questions about the human capacity to make a commitment or to avoid commitment which today is at the very heart of the cultural and moral divide in the West and which have has so much bearing on the threatened destruction of marriage and the family.

“Can one bind oneself for a lifetime?” He asked. “Does this correspond to man’s nature? Does it not contradict his freedom and the scope of his self-realization? Does man become himself by living for himself alone and only entering into relationships with others when he can break them off again at any time? Is lifelong commitment antithetical to freedom? Is commitment also worth suffering for?

“Man’s refusal to make any commitment – which is becoming increasingly widespread as a result of a false understanding of freedom and self-realization as well as the desire to escape suffering – means that man remains closed in on himself and keeps his “I” ultimately for himself, without really rising above it. Yet only in self-giving does man find himself, and only by opening himself to the other, to others, to children, to the family, only by letting himself be changed through suffering, does he discover the breadth of his humanity. When such commitment is repudiated, the key figures of human existence likewise vanish: father, mother, child – essential elements of the experience of being human are lost.”

“In the fight for the family, the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question,” the Pope said in his address . “The question of the family … is the question of what it means to be a man, and what it is necessary to do to be true men,” he said.

The craziness of gender theory, craziness of the kind exemplified in the thinking of those Stockport councillors, is central to the craziness which is seeking to redefine marriage. But it is a mere by- product of the attempt to redefine human nature itself.

The Pope spoke of the “falseness” of gender theories and drew on the wisdom of France’s chief Rabbi, Gilles Bernheim, who has spoken out against gay marriage. “Bernheim”, he said, “has shown in a very detailed and profoundly moving study that the attack we are currently experiencing on the true structure of the family, made up of father, mother, and child, goes much deeper.”

The Pope supports Bernheim’s thesis that up to  now we regarded a false understanding of the nature of human freedom as one cause of the crisis of the family, but that it is now becoming clear that the very notion of being – of what being human really means – is being called into question. For him this is exemplified in de Beauvoir’s infamous dictum: “one is not born a woman, one becomes so” (on ne naît pas femme, on le devient).

These words, outrageous when they were uttered and seen as such by the vast majority, are now no longer so. Anything professed to the contrary is now done so at one’s peril. To get evidence of that all you have to do is to survey the international media uproar in response to the Pope’s address.

De Beauvoir’s dictum has laid “the foundation for what is put forward today under the term “gender” as a new philosophy of sexuality,” the Pope said.  “According to this philosophy, sex is no longer a given element of nature that man has to accept and personally make sense of: it is a social role that we choose for ourselves, while in the past it was chosen for us by society.

“The profound falsehood of this theory and of the anthropological revolution contained within it is obvious. People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves…”

“The manipulation of nature, which we deplore today where our environment is concerned, now becomes man’s fundamental choice where he himself is concerned. From now on there is only the abstract human being, who chooses for himself what his nature is to be. Man and woman in their created state as complementary versions of what it means to be human are disputed. But if there is no pre-ordained duality of man and woman in creation, then neither is the family any longer a reality established by creation.

“Likewise, the child has lost the place he had occupied hitherto and the dignity pertaining to him. Bernheim shows that now, perforce, from being a subject of rights, the child has become an object to which people have a right and which they have a right to obtain. When the freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God, as the image of God at the core of his being. The defence of the family is about man himself. And it becomes clear that when God is denied, human dignity also disappears. Whoever defends God is defending man.”

France’s parliament is to debate the government-backed “marriage for all” bill early next year. With President Francois Hollande’s Socialists enjoying a strong majority, the bill is expected to pass despite opposition from the right and religious groups. In Britain the Conservative Party is getting itself tied up in knots over the issue as it leads Parliament into a vote on the which with unquestioned backing across the house it will inevitably win. The Administration in the US is driving the country in the same direction while in Ireland the political establishment has clearly bought into the same political consensus.

Meanwhile the Catholic Church, now truly counter-cultural, stands firmly by its teaching on the right to life, on human sexuality generally, on marriage and the family. It did so two thousand years ago, it has had to do so many times in the intervening centuries and it now has to do so again. That it might find itself doing so in a wilderness, surrounded by Mammon’s false “Heaven” on earth, will not deter it. That again would be nothing new.