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The Sexual Revolution Ruined Everything it Touched

Every now and again I come across something the warrants posting here; I recently came across a video by Matt Walsh which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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“The sexual revolution has been a catastrophic failure, having wrought only disease, abortion, divorce, unwed pregnancy, and other miseries, with none of the advantages it promised. Maybe it’s time to cut our losses and go back to the old fashioned way, which is the only way that works.”

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Interference With Child Custody or Kidnapping? High Court Sorts It Out.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has recently handed down a ruling in the matter of Pennsylvania v. Tex Xavier Ortiz, 45 WAP 2017, that addresses and clarifies whether the criminal offense of interference with the custody of children, committed by a biological parent, can serve as an underlying felony for the crime of kidnapping a minor.

In a related custody matter to Ortiz, the maternal grandmother of the father’s (Ortiz) daughter, was awarded primary custody of his daughter as Ortiz failed to appear at the custody hearing. Per the order granting her primary custody, the grandmother attempted to exercise her custodial rights over the daughter, but could not locate her. After an investigation, it was found that Ortiz had his daughter and made efforts to conceal his whereabouts. The daughter was eventually found and returned to the grandmother, and Ortiz was arrested.

Ortiz was charged and convicted of interference with the custody of children (ICC) (pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. Section 2904(a) and (c)) as well as kidnapping a minor (pursuant to 18 Pa.C.S. Section 2901(a.1)(2)). Ortiz appealed and argued that the ICC cannot serve as an underlying felony for the kidnapping of a minor when committed by a biological parent. Pennsylvania Superior Court agreed with him, and the commonwealth was granted an allowance of appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The court first observed that the kidnapping-of-a-minor statute has two required elements: the unlawful removal of a child a substantial distance away without the consent of the person responsible for the supervision of the child, and one of the four enumerated states of intent as described in Section 2901(a.1)(1) – (4) (i.e: (1) to hold for ransom or reward, or as a shield or hostage; to facilitate commission of any felony or flight thereafter; to inflict bodily injury on or to terrorize the victim or another; and, to interfere with the performance by public officials of any governmental or political function.). Next, the court discussed the ICC, which prohibits “the taking of a minor ‘from the custody of its parent, guardian or other lawful custodian, when the actor has no privilege to do so.’” The two statutes clearly closely track one another and significantly overlap.

The court then turned its focus on Section 2901(a.1)(2) where kidnapping of a minor requires an intention to commit a felony or flee with the child and looked at how that related to the ICC. The court observed that applying the ICC to Section 2901(a.1)(2) resulted in unworkable circular logic. Specifically, the court opined that “it is logically problematic to assert that father unlawfully removed the child pursuant to the kidnapping statute with the intent to make it easier to unlawfully remove the child as contemplated by the ICC statute … stated otherwise, the act of taking does not, sensibly, facilitate the act of taking.”

To discern a proper understanding of how to interpret these statutes together, the court looked to the Model Penal Code, from which both statutes at issue herein are derived. Pursuant the commentary to the Model Penal Code, kidnapping protects against physical danger, while the ICC serves only to maintain parental custody of children against unlawful interference, which does not necessarily touch upon any of the four statutory states of intent in the kidnapping statute listed above. Furthermore, someone who commits kidnapping typically has malevolent intent toward the child, while, by contrast, violating the ICC, although unlawful, is committed by someone who typically is favorably disposed to the child. The ICC, therefore, operates as a lesser included offense to kidnapping to allow for punishment of the act of unlawfully taking a child contrary to a custody order, which is less severe than standard kidnapping in that it does not meet the states of intent mentioned above.

Based on the above, the court ruled that a conviction under the ICC cannot form the underlying felony for a kidnapping charge under Section 2901(a.1)(2). The court found that the authors of the Model Penal Code “having assiduously explained that kidnapping requires more than interference with the custody of a child by a parent—did not intend for such interference to be reintroduced into the calculus under the rubric of a predicate felony.”

Finally, the court rejected the commonwealth’s argument that a defendant may be prosecuted under all available provisions under 42 Pa.C.S. Section 9303 because the kidnapping statute and the ICC do not cover the same underlying conduct.

In sum, a finding that a biological parent committed the crime of interfering with a custody order under 18 Pa.C.S. Section 2904(a) and (c) cannot also serve as an underlying felony for a charge and conviction for kidnapping a minor.

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer on December 20, 2018 and can be found here.

Why I’m Not a Leftist

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Splice Today by my old philosophy professor Dr. Crispin Sartwell from back in my Penn State days which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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The left wants to solve oppression by more thorough oppression.

I’m an egalitarian. I don’t think there’s a natural hierarchy of race or gender or sexuality or class. I call myself a feminist and anti-racist, and have worked hard at it; I’ve tried to reflect and change, insofar as that’s possible for a person like me. I’m outraged by the enduring, intensifying hierarchy of wealth that eats the world. I’m not opposed to buying and selling or ownership in all forms, but I’m certainly not a go-go capitalist. The picture of humanity that you get in capitalist ideology, in which everyone is dedicated above all to serving their own economic interests, makes me ill. I wish for a world where every sort of person is valued and in which the giant structures that oppress us all have been leveled.

In other words, I’m down with the goal. But the terrible problem with leftism, the practical problem and the theoretical problem, comes in the realm of the means to reach it. The left wants to solve oppression by more thorough oppression. It wants to solve hierarchy by imposing hierarchy. To free you, it intends to re-make you, re-train you, transform you, and to create institutions that are capable of doing that to everyone. At the beating bleeding heart of the left is the most obvious and the most destructive contradiction in the world.

Marx taught that a bourgeois intelligentsia will lead the proletariat to see where its own interests really resided: in the destruction of capitalism. This elite will spearhead a transformation to a new, much more equal world, which will be accomplished by a government the size and power of which will be unprecedented in human history, a “despotism” or “dictatorship” that controls all manufacturing, transportation, education, finance, and communication, to begin with, and that “liquidates” class enemies. This program (despite what a Marxist might tell you) has been sincerely applied all over the world. It has led to some of the most entrenched hierarchies of power and to most of the most murderous regimes that the world has ever seen.

That’s entirely predictable, because history shows that hierarchies coincide. If you dismantle the existing economic hierarchy by creating a more powerful state, resources will flow toward the power, and the people who constitute that state will be at apex of a new economic hierarchy, enforced by unprecedented powers. Consider China, for instance. The idea that you’re going to make us equal through oppression is really stupid.

The contemporary mainstream left isn’t usually flatly Marxist, but it has brought that along with it. There are almost no ideas whatever except further government programs, an ever-growing coercive state power that devours different segments of the economy and of social life, that tries to mold minds in its image or for its purposes, that imposes the envisioned transformation from the top down.

Unfortunately, government is obviously not whatever the left thinks it is. It’s not all of us together, which should be obvious to the left during the Trump administration. It’s an actual group of people. All you propose to do is create a new class, dominant both economically and politically, and I think you have largely been successful in this regard. Turn over the sort of power you contemplate to a government, and you should expect in the long run to be its victim.

Morally, it’s unconscionable to separate means and ends in this way, to countenance ever-more thorough oppression for anti-oppressive ends. Practically, welfare-state liberalism and state socialism have had the direct result of consolidating economic and political power into more or less the very same hands, and placing everyone at their mercy.

I’m not enumerating examples very elaborately here, but I’ll give you one. Public housing programs uprooted many functioning communities. They enhanced or imposed racial segregation. They often led to nightmarish living conditions. Their declared purpose was to make people more equal, or even to address racial disparities and move us to a more just society. The power that was constituted by the funding and the law accomplished effects precisely opposite of those it declared. That, in brief, is the history of the whole left.

This idea where they will free us by oppression is a sort of tic on the left. Once you see it clearly, that’s more or less all there is. A beautiful example is today’s anti-free-expression movement, which is dominant on college campus, but has bled into everywhere. We will free the oppressed by imposing formal and informal, state or institutional, limits on the expression of everyone. We will free everyone by forcing them to say the right thing and wear only the permissible outfits.

Meanwhile, we’ll constitute powers of surveillance, institutional sanctions, and various techniques for silencing people that can be turned to whatever purposes the people who control them care to pursue. Create a power capable of controlling the speech of your enemies, and you should expect to be silenced yourself. You’ll deserve it, too. In all your history since 1848, you have proposed to free us by enslaving us. You’re immune to the historical information that makes it obvious that that is a disaster.

Anyway, you have beautiful ideals. I share these ideals. You have ugly, unimaginative, demonstrably disastrous procedures for realizing these ideals, and on those I’ll fight you tooth and nail. And, as long I control my mouth, I’ll say whatever I please.

Next week (barring irresistible news developments): Why I am Not on the Right.

—Follow Crispin Sartwell on Twitter: @CrispinSartwell

This article can be found here.

 

The Disease of Being Busy

I saw a dear friend a few days ago. I stopped by to ask her how she was doing, how her family was. She looked up, voice lowered, and just whimpered: “I’m so busy… I am so busy… have so much going on.”

Almost immediately after, I ran into another friend and asked him how he was. Again, same tone, same response: “I’m just so busy… got so much to do.”

The tone was exacerbated, tired, even overwhelmed.

And it’s not just adults. When we moved to North Carolina about ten years ago, we were thrilled to be moving to a city with a great school system. We found a diverse neighborhood, filled with families. Everything felt good, felt right.

After we settled in, we went to one of the friendly neighbors, asking if their daughter and our daughter could get together and play. The mother, a really lovely person, reached for her phone and pulled out the calendar function. She scrolled… and scrolled… and scrolled. She finally said: “She has a 45-minute opening two and half weeks from now. The rest of the time it’s gymnastics, piano, and voice lessons. She’s just…. so busy.”

Horribly destructive habits start early, really early.

How did we end up living like this? Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we do this to our children? When did we forget that we are human beings, not human doings?

Whatever happened to a world in which kids get muddy, get dirty, get messy, and heavens, get bored? Do we have to love our children so much that we overschedule them, making them stressed and busy — just like us?

What happened to a world in which we can sit with the people we love so much and have slow conversations about the state of our heart and soul, conversations that slowly unfold, conversations with pregnant pauses and silences that we are in no rush to fill?

How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?

Somewhere we read, “The unexamined life is not worth living… for a human.” How are we supposed to live, to examine, to be, to become, to be fully human when we are so busy?

This disease of being “busy” (and let’s call it what it is, the dis-ease of being busy, when we are never at ease) is spiritually destructive to our health and wellbeing. It saps our ability to be fully present with those we love the most in our families, and keeps us from forming the kind of community that we all so desperately crave.

Since the 1950s, we have had so many new technological innovations that we thought (or were promised) would make our lives easier, faster, simpler. Yet, we have no more “free” or leisurely time today than we did decades ago.

For some of us, the “privileged” ones, the lines between work and home have become blurred. We are on our devices. All. The. Freaking. Time.

Smart phones and laptops mean that there is no division between the office and home. When the kids are in bed, we are back online.

One of my own daily struggles is the avalanche of email. I often refer to it as my jihad against email. I am constantly buried under hundreds and hundreds of emails, and I have absolutely no idea how to make it stop. I’ve tried different techniques: only responding in the evenings, not responding over weekends, asking people to schedule more face-to-face time. They keep on coming, in volumes that are unfathomable: personal emails, business emails, hybrid emails. And people expect a response — right now. I, too, it turns out… am so busy.

The reality looks very different for others. For many, working two jobs in low-paying sectors is the only way to keep the family afloat. Twenty percent of our children are living in poverty, and too many of our parents are working minimum wage jobs just to put a roof over their head and something resembling food on the table. We are so busy.

The old models, including that of a nuclear family with one parent working outside the home (if it ever existed), have passed away for most of us. We now have a majority of families being single families, or where both parents are working outside the home. It is not working.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik?or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves a human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves a human touch.

I teach at a university where many students pride themselves on the “study hard, party hard” lifestyle. This might be a reflection of many of our lifestyles and our busy-ness — that even our means of relaxation is itself a reflection of that same world of overstimulation. Our relaxation often takes the form of action-filled (yet mindless) films, or violent and fast-paced sports.

I don’t have any magical solutions. All I know is that we are losing the ability to live a truly human life.

We need a different relationship to work, to technology. We know what we want: a meaningful life, a sense of community, a balanced existence. It’s not just about “leaning in” or faster iPhones. We want to be truly human.

W. B. Yeats once wrote:

“It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on a battlefield.”

How exactly are we supposed to examine the dark corners of our soul when we are so busy? How are we supposed to live the examined life?

I am always a prisoner of hope, but I wonder if we are willing to have the structural conversation necessary about how to do that, how to live like that. Somehow we need a different model of organizing our lives, our societies, our families, our communities.

I want my kids to be dirty, messy, even bored — learning to become human. I want us to have a kind of existence where we can pause, look each other in the eye, touch one another, and inquire together: Here is how my heart is doing? I am taking the time to reflect on my own existence; I am in touch enough with my own heart and soul to know how I fare, and I know how to express the state of my heart.

How is the state of your heart today?

Let us insist on a type of human-to-human connection where when one of us responds by saying, “I am just so busy,” we can follow up by saying, “I know, love. We all are. But I want to know how your heart is doing.”

By Omid Safi, published in On Being, and can be seen here.

 

DIVERSITY AND MERITOCRACY, TOGETHER

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in First Things which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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Do our elite universities prize academic merit? Or are they more concerned to achieve diversity? Most of us assume that these values are incompatible. But in my lifetime, elite universities have intensified their concerns about academic merit and diversity—simultaneously. The logic lies in the changing social conditions of our country. By my reading of our history, most of our elite universities have been rigorous about merit from their inceptions. What’s changed is what counts as merit.

Take Yale circa 1900. It sought the right sort of man. Good family (WASP). Athletic. Intelligent, perhaps, but not bookish. Church-going, but not too pious. “A leader,” as someone might say. The industrial revolution had made technical knowledge more important, and so the criteria for the “right sort of man” had shifted a bit. The ruling class needed some members who had aptitudes for the sciences and not just football. WASP elites saw the need to cast the net more widely (but not too widely). Soon, Jews (not too many). Always, they prioritized “merit.” The “best” men were those most likely to stand astride society in their maturity.

Then came World War II. It turned out to be impossible to send millions of men from Irish, Italian, and Slovak backgrounds into battle and then expect them to return to the old regime of WASP-dominated elites. So the net was cast more widely still. Harvard president James Bryant Conant (a non-elite striver himself) invented the SAT. The “best” men needed to be supplemented with smart kids from Kokomo.

The Cold War intensified the emphasis on academic merit. Conant, who had overseen the Manhattan Project, saw our competition with the Soviets as a technical challenge, not just in the development of weapons but in the scientific management of a free society. To win this global conflict, America needed “the best and the brightest,” not just the pedigreed. The country would still be run by white men, but not uniformly by scions of the old-stock families. We needed high IQs.

This phase, which ran from the GI Bill through the 1960s, is often remembered as a golden age of meritocracy. The universities grew rapidly. The sons of working-class fathers went to college. A rapidly growing economy (and government bureaucracy) absorbed the growing cohort of new meritocrats.

Then came the explosions of the 1960s. Yale’s Brahmin president, Kingman Brewster, and other grandees recognized that the legitimacy of America’s ruling class was in peril. Dramatic steps were needed to shore up the system. The elite consensus: Our ruling class needed to look more like the people it ruled. Elite colleges first tried a crude, mostly covert quota system, designed to recruit talented students from minority backgrounds. The Supreme Court’s 1978 Bakke decision forced a more indirect approach to racial preferences in college admissions. “Diversity” was born.

That takes us up to today.

These were dramatic and important changes. Yet Harvard, Yale, and other elite universities have maintained a continuous mission. They have always sought to educate those with the most merit, where “merit” means “ability to occupy the top positions in society.” Since 1970, “merit” is no longer defined by a WASP system—rather, it is defined by a diversity system oriented to renewal of the ruling class by ensuring its demographic legitimacy in a democratic culture.

I’m quite sure that the vast majority of students admitted to Harvard today merit admission, where “merit” is defined in this way. Harvard has an incentive to admit only those who will sustain its super-eminence by graduating to the ranks of the super-eminent—a feat that depends on all sorts of cultural factors, not just intelligence. No ruling class can live on good test-takers alone. These days, identity politics strongly correlates your “diversity” to your social status. Harvard attends to that kind of merit, not the older metrics of WASP pedigree.

LGBT issues have been a boon in this regard. No ruling class signs its death warrant, at least not knowingly. Diversity was always meant to shore up the legitimacy of our elites, not to overthrow them. Sexual “minorities” bring diversity in ways much less disruptive to our still largely white (and, of course, well off) ruling class. This is a not inconsiderable advantage, and it goes a long way toward explaining why these issues have achieved such prominence within elite institutions.

Many of my friends believe that the push for diversity in higher education has led to a decline in emphasis on academic achievement. They are mistaken. The last fifty years have seen a trend toward greater emphasis on both diversity and IQ. I went to a fancy-pants college in the late 1970s. It was far less preoccupied then with the fine distinctions of academic merit than it is now. At the same time, it has become far more preoccupied with diversity. As most professors will tell you, today’s student culture is fixated on identity politics and is terrified of anything less than an “A.” In sum: diversity and academic achievement, with “merit” defined as the maximization of both.

These days we seem to be entering another crisis of legitimacy, one very different from that of the 1960s but felt acutely by those at the top of society. Perhaps diversity is losing its power to legitimate, just as three generations ago WASP patrimony lost its power to legitimate. Diversity’s group-identity approach does not suit our individualistic culture, so there’s been a lot of cover-up and double-talk. Or maybe the academic-achievement side is in crisis. It’s become a terrible burden for young people (and their ambitious parents).

My intuition is that our problem runs deeper still. There can never be an entirely rational justification for the super-eminence of a ruling class. It always needs an element of aristocratic charisma, which is to say a quasi-sacred and mysterious source of legitimacy. The old WASP elite reflected the glow of our glorious past—Plymouth Rock, the ride of Paul Revere, Bunker Hill. That’s why overcoming the old system of legitimacy has required the active promotion of historical illiteracy, with the exception of instruction in America’s sins.

Some quasi-sacred sources of legitimacy remain. Warfare mints new elites. Some survive. Some triumph. In the dark mysteries of warfare, we sense the hand of providence. Diversity also trafficks in charisma. The cult of victimhood anoints some with special public roles. The very announcement of “diversity” has the capacity to inspire, a quality any ruling class needs if it wishes to rule. Even the grind of academic achievement participates in the aristocratic charisma of genius.

Our culture is modern, individualistic, and democratic. But we are human, and our desires, however much we analyze them with the tools of reason, are timeless. We want to be ruled by something higher. We half-believe in the anointing power of diversity and academic achievement. But only half-believe.

By R.R. Reno and published in First Things on April 5, 2018 and can be found here.

 

VA Updates Guidelines On Religious Exercise At Its Facilities

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

On Aug. 19, the Veterans Administration issued an internal memorandum (full text) updating its Policy Guidance on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression In VA Facilities.  The memo revises a 2014 Guidance.  A press releaseyesterday from the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty welcomes the revision, saying in part:

This should make clear that churches may sing Christmas carols and distribute Christmas cards at VA hospitals. Further, veteran organizations may set up MIA/POW tables that include a sacred text.

You can learn more about this issue here.

THE PROPHETIC POWER OF HUMANAE VITAE

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in First Things which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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One recurring theme in Pope Francis’s teaching is that human realities trump scholarly abstractions: “La realidad es superior a la idea.” His signature phrase about pastors who have the “smell of the sheep” is the folk version of this maxim. Cautions about “rigidity,” “empty rhetoric,” and getting “stuck in pure ideas” appear often in his work, and in that of his inner circle, too. What matters most are “the realities people face in their daily lives,” as Blase Cardinal Cupich put it in a speech at Cambridge recently.

Attention to “reality” is especially fitting as we mark this fiftieth anniversary year of one of the most famous, and infamous, encyclicals in church history. Ten years ago, on its fortieth anniversary, First Things published an essay of mine called “The Vindication of Humanae Vitae.” Citing contemporary evidence from many sources, including sociology, psychology, history, and contemporary women’s literature, I argued:

Four decades later, not only have the document’s signature predictions been ratified in empirical force, but they have been ratified as few predictions ever are: in ways its authors could not possibly have foreseen, including by information that did not exist when the document was written, by scholars and others with no interest whatever in its teaching, and indeed even inadvertently, and in more ways than one, by many proud public adversaries of the Church.

Of course, to say that proof abounds is not to say that a valid argument falls always and everywhere on happy ears—not fifty years ago, not ten years ago, and not today. The promise of sex on demand, unencumbered by constraint, may be the strongest collective temptation humanity has ever encountered. That’s why, since the invention of the birth control pill, resistance to the traditional Christian code has been unremittingly ferocious, and why so many in the laity and clergy wish that this rule—among others—were less taxing. As the disciples of Jesus Christ complained upon hearing his teaching about marriage, these lessons are “hard.”

But to confuse “hard” with “wrong” is a fundamental error. If we are truly to lean into realidades, there is only one conclusion to be drawn from the mass of empirical evidence now out there. It’s the same conclusion that was visible ten years ago, and that will remain visible ten, or one hundred, or two hundred years from now. It’s simply this: The most globally reviled and widely misunderstood document of the last half century is also the most prophetic and explanatory of our time.

Let us set aside theology, philosophy, ideology, and other abstractions and count up the new realities vindicating Humanae Vitae, one by one.

The first empirical reality is this: If we leave out individual intentions and assess nothing but uncontroversial facts, it is transparently clear that the increased use of contraception has also increased abortion. Fifty years ago, when contraception became commonplace, many people of good will defended it precisely for the reason that they thought it would render abortion obsolete. Reliable birth control, they reasoned, would prevent abortion. But the statistical record since the 1960s shows this commonly held logic to be wrong. Many studies have emanated from the social sciences during the past decades trying to explain what secular wisdom regards as a puzzling fact. Far from preventing abortion and unplanned pregnancies, contraception’s effects after the invention of the pill ran quite the other way: Rates of contraception usage, abortion, and out-of-wedlock births all exploded simultaneously.

Writing in the Quarterly Journal of Economics twenty-two years ago, economists George A. Akerlof, Janet L. Yellen, and Michael L. Katz summarized these unexpected connections:

Before the sexual revolution, women had less freedom, but men were expected to assume responsibility for their welfare. Today women are more free to choose, but men have afforded themselves the comparable option. “If she is not willing to have an abortion or use contraception,” the man can reason, “why should I sacrifice myself to get married?” By making the birth of the child the physical choice of the mother, the sexual revolution has made marriage and child support a social choice of the father.

In other words, contraception has led to more pregnancy and more abortion because it eroded the idea that men had equal responsibility in case of an unplanned pregnancy. Contraception, as these economists explain, sharply reduced the incentive for men to marry—including to marry their pregnant girlfriends. In the new, post-pill order, pregnancy became the woman’s responsibility—and if birth control “failed,” that was not the man’s problem.

Then there is the fact that contraception and abortion are bound together juridically. As Michael Pakaluk, among other scholars, has recently pointed out:

As regards jurisprudence, the fruit of contraception is abortion. Until the 1960s, Comstock Act laws were on the books in many states, making the sale of contraceptives illegal even to married couples. These laws were overturned in 1965 by the Supreme Court’s muddled Griswold decision. But by 1973—only eight years later—the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade had inferred from the right to contraception a right to abortion.

Putting that point differently: Legal reasoning justifying freedom to contracept has been used to justify freedom to abort—a linkage that undermines the claim that a hard-and-fast line can be drawn between the two. Or, we might say, freedom to contracept was not enough. People needed the added freedom to terminate a product of failed contraception. History connects the same causal dots. The push to liberalize abortion laws in countries around the world did not begin until the first third of the twentieth century, as birth control devices came into wider circulation, and American states did not start liberalizing abortion laws until after the federal approval of the birth control pill in 1960. Roe v. Wade comes after the pill, not before. As a matter of historical fact, the mass use of contraception called forth the demand for more abortion.

Writing in the National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly in 2015, researcher Scott Lloyd likewise concluded that contraception leads to abortion—not inevitably in individual cases, of course, but repeatedly and reliably as twinned social phenomena: “Because the lower risk perceived with contraceptives enables sexual encounters and relationships that would not occur otherwise, it invites pregnancies that occur in situations where women do not feel ready to become pregnant.”

As we review the record, mercy and forgiveness are patently in order—toward the postwar generation that championed contraception, that is. Who, back then, could have anticipated that contraception would lead to abortion on a scale never before seen? Would the uproar over Humanae Vitae have been much diminished had all critics known then what the ledger shows now? Might not some of those dissenting Catholics—and others—who publicly rebuked the Church have acted differently if they’d realized that embracing contraception would open the way to vastly more abortion? It is plain in hindsight that the “lowering of moral standards” foreseen by Humanae Vitae would come to include disrespect not only for women, but for the human fetus, too.

Reality since 1968 has made it impossible to pretend that contraception has not played a decisive role in the scourge of abortion. Pope Francis himself has called abortion “a very grave sin” and a “horrendous crime.” The old defense of birth control as the alternative to abortion has been overruled by facts. The reality that it is an accelerant to abortion has been confirmed by time.

In part because fifty years of experience have established reality number one, a second reality has become evident. People outside the Catholic Church—most notably, though not only, some leading Protestants—have come to see Humanae Vitae in a new and more favorable light.

One of the least reported religious stories of our time, this potent trend may reconfigure Christianity, replacing disunity over birth control with a new unity. Observing what the sexual revolution has wrought, more and more Protestant voices now question yesterday’s nonchalance about contraception. This reconsideration is far from a majority view—yet, anyway. But it manifests what any minority view must have in order to win over others: evidence and moral energy. Consider the following examples from the last ten years.

Protestants have done themselves a disservice by ignoring Humanae Vitae’s substantial statement on human anthropology and sexuality. . . . Protestants would be well-served to study Paul VI’s encyclical and take heed of its warnings.
–Evan Lenow, professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Many evangelicals are joining the discussion about birth control and its meaning. Evangelicals arrived late to the issue of abortion, and we have arrived late to the issue of birth control, but we are here now.
–R. Albert Mohler Jr., president, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

For evangelicals, an anti-contraception position is not seen as exclusively Roman Catholic, as it would have been in the past.
–Jenell Paris, anthropologist, Messiah College

Whenever current events touch on life issues, evangelicals like me become increasingly uncomfortable with the contraception culture. We realize we have much more in common with Catholics, who revere life, than the radical feminists who revere the rights of women above all else.
–Julie Roys, evangelical author and blogger

“More Protestants Oppose Birth Control,” New York Times headline, 2012

These second thoughts among Protestants and other non-Catholics are less a radical break from Christian tradition than a return to it. Church teaching on contraception, including Protestant teaching, has followed an unbroken line through the centuries. Not until the Anglican Communion made the first exception to the prohibition at the Lambeth Conference of 1930 did Catholics and Protestants divide on this moral teaching. The famous Resolution 15 was intended for married couples only, and in carefully delineated circumstances; but it ushered in contraception for convenience. Its language matches the terminology deployed by would-be Catholic “reformers” today:

In those cases where there is such a clearly felt moral obligation to limit or avoid parenthood, and where there is a morally sound reason for avoiding complete abstinence, the Conference agrees that other methods may be used, provided that this is done in the light of the same Christian principles.

Then as now, Protestants who were not at ease with abandoning traditional teaching turned to Rome for authority. Charles Gore, the bishop of Oxford, objected to Resolution 15. He had “manifold reason to believe that in the case of Birth Prevention the ‘very strong tradition in the Catholic Church’ has been in the right, and has divine sanction.” The move by some Protestants toward Humanae Vitae today is in part a tacit declaration that, in retrospect, the bishop of Oxford’s side might have been the right one.

In Africa, both Protestants and Catholics lean toward traditionalism in Christian moral teaching. Here as elsewhere in history, the maxim delivered by sociologist Laurence R. Iannaccone holds: “Strict churches are strong”—and concomitantly, lax churches are weak. It is in tradition-minded Africa that Christianity has grown explosively in the years since Humanae Vitae—as opposed to those nations whose Christian leaders have struggled, and struggle still, to change the rulebook.

As the Pew Research Center put it in a report a few years ago, “Africans [are] among the most morally opposed to contraception.” Substantial numbers of people in Kenya, Uganda, and other sub-Saharan countries—Catholic and otherwise—agree with the proposition that contraception use is “morally unacceptable”; in Ghana and Nigeria, it is more than half the population. Despite decades of secular proselytizing, many in Africa have resisted the attempts of reformers to bring them into line with the secular Western sexual program—which includes, of course, diminishing the number of Africans.

Nigerian-born Obianuju Ekeocha, author of the new book Target Africa: Ideological Neo-Colonialism of the Twenty-first Century, wrote an open letter to Melinda Gates, whose foundation dedicates impressive resources to spreading birth control among Africans: “I see this $4.6 billion buying us misery. I see it buying us unfaithful husbands. I see it buying us streets devoid of the innocent chatter of children. . . . I see it buying us a retirement without the tender loving care of our children.”

Africans are not the only intended beneficiaries of campaigns to expand the contraceptive Weltanschauung. Nor are they alone in abjuring the idea that the world would be better off with fewer of them in it. As one notable Indian targeted with the same message some years back put it, “It is futile to hope that the use of contraceptives will be restricted to the mere regulation of progeny. There is hope for a decent life only so long as the sexual act is definitely related to the conception of precious life.” The author of these sentences is not Elizabeth Anscombe, whose famous 1972 essay “Contraception and Chastity” defended Humanae Vitae with this same logic. It is instead Mahatma Gandhi—one more non-Catholic to affirm the reasoning behind Christian moral teaching. “I urge the advocates of artificial methods to consider the consequences,” he explained elsewhere. “Any large use of the methods is likely to result in the dissolution of the marriage bond and in free love.”

There is also sound reason for the enduring fear that “public authorities” might “impose” these technologies on the citizenry—as Humanae Vitaealso warned. This has happened, of course, in China, via its long-standing, barbaric “one child” policy, replete with forced abortions and involuntary sterilizations. A softer kind of coercion has appeared in the United States and other Western nations where efforts have been made to link desired outcomes with mandatory birth control. In the 1990s and beyond, for example, some U.S. judges backed state-imposed implantation of long-term contraceptives on women convicted of crimes. Such implied force has provoked criticism by (among others) the American Civil Liberties Union. “The recent attempts to coerce women to use Norplant represent a reversion to an era of overt racism and eugenics,” the ACLU explained.

Reality number three concerns the state of modern women. Contraception, it was and is perennially asserted, will make them happier and freer than ever before. Has it? Evidence points to the contrary—from social science suggesting that female happiness across the United States and Europe has been declining over time, to the dolorous notes so often struck in academic and popular feminism, to the growing worry among secular women that marriage has become impossible and it is time to go it alone. A decade after I documented those trends, there is much more that could be added to the ledger suggesting that Humanae Vitae was right to spy an impending increase in divisiveness between the sexes. Consider in passing just two evocative snapshots.

In 2012, Amazon U.K. announced that E. L. James’s Fifty Shades of Greyhad replaced J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books as the bestselling volume in its history. This signals an extraordinary commercial demand by women for the tale of a rich and powerful man who humiliates, bullies, and commits violence against a woman, over and over.

Sadomasochism is a prominent theme elsewhere in popular culture—including, again, popular women’s culture. Concerning the fashion industry, John Leo observed, “I first noticed the porn-fashion connection in 1975, when Vogue magazine ran a seven-photo fashion spread featuring a man in a bathrobe battering a screaming model in a lovely pink jumpsuit ($140 from Saks, picture by Avedon).” Harper’s Bazaar has seconded the point: “Long before Fifty Shades fever hit, designers have been mining BDSM for sartorial inspiration. From literal crops to all forms of waist, wrist, and ankle ties—not to mention the sheer volume of leather—it’s clear Christian Grey would be proud.”

Implied and even overt violence against women saturates video games and, of course, pornography. The sadomasochistic look has become widespread in popular music, too; the number of globally recognized female singers who have not paid homage to pornography and sadomasochism is vanishingly small. Why are so many women subsidizing a self-image of subjugation and dejection at a time when their freedom is greater than ever before? Does the success of Fifty Shadestell us that men have become so hard to get that any means of finding one will do, no matter how degrading?

Joy does not abound in another post-pill reality: the continuing secular sex scandals of 2017 and 2018, and the #MeToo movement. It appears that the sexual revolution licensed predation. That is not a theological judgment, but an empirical one—foreseen in part by social scientist Francis Fukuyama. His 1999 book The Great Disruption made a point that echoes in Humanae Vitae, though based on a thoroughly secular analysis:

One of the greatest frauds perpetrated during the Great Disruption was the notion that the sexual revolution was gender-neutral, benefiting women and men equally. . . . In fact the sexual revolution served the interests of men, and in the end put sharp limits on the gains that women might otherwise have expected from their liberation from traditional roles.

Almost twenty years later, that point is irrefutable. The abuse scandals show that the revolution democratized sexual harassment. No longer does a man have to be a king or a master of the universe to abuse or prey upon women in unrelenting, serial fashion, and for a long time, with no punishment. One needs only a world in which women are assumed to use contraception—the world we’ve had since the 1960s, the world that Humanae Vitae foresaw.

This brings us to still another reality: Fifty years into the sexual revolution, one of the most pressing, and growing, issues for researchers is not overpopulation, but its opposite: under-population. Ten years ago, I reviewed evidence for the claim that the overpopulation scares of the late 1960s were just that: scares. They happened not so coincidentally to be ideologically useful to partisans who wanted the Church to change its moral teaching. As I noted in 2008:

So discredited has the overpopulation science become that this year Columbia University historian Matthew Connelly could publish Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population and garner a starred review in Publishers Weekly—all in service of what is probably the single best demolition of the population arguments that some hoped would undermine church teaching. This is all the more satisfying a ratification because Connelly is so conscientious in establishing his own personal antagonism toward the Catholic Church. . . . Fatal Misconception is decisive [secular] proof that the spectacle of overpopulation, which was used to browbeat the Vatican in the name of science, was a grotesque error all along.

The past decade has made reality plain. Not only is “overpopulation” a shifting ideological chimera, but the reverse obtains. A great many people, especially in the increasingly barren and graying West, are suffering instead from what experts in those stricken societies call an “epidemic” of loneliness.

This finding would not surprise Pope Francis, who in an interview with La Repubblica in 2013 called the “loneliness of the old” one of the worst “evils” in today’s world. Fifty years after the embrace of the pill—undeniably, because of the embrace of the pill—loneliness is spreading across the materially better-off countries of the planet.

Toward the end of last year, the New York Times published a harrowing story about the birth dearth.

4,000 lonely deaths a week. . . . Each year, some of [Japan’s elderly] died without anyone knowing, only to be discovered after their neighbors caught the smell.

The first time it happened, or at least the first time it drew national attention, the corpse of a 69-year-old man living near Mrs. Ito had been lying on the floor for three years, without anyone noticing his absence. His monthly rent and utilities had been withdrawn automatically from his bank account. Finally, after his savings were depleted in 2000, the authorities came to the apartment and found his skeleton near the kitchen, its flesh picked clean by maggots and beetles, just a few feet away from his next-door neighbors.

The story goes on to note, “The extreme isolation of elderly Japanese is so common that an entire industry has emerged around it, specializing in cleaning out apartments where decomposing remains are found.” According to another recent report in The Independent, cleanup firms are burgeoning and insurance companies offer policies to protect landlords in case a “lonely” happens on their property.

Japan is just one country facing post-pill demographic change. “Loneliness is becoming a common phenomenon in France,” Le Figaro reported several years ago. Citing a study on the “new solitudes” by the Fondation de France, the article names the prime driver of this loneliness: “family rupture,” especially divorce. In a similar vein, a 2014 study on “Socio-Demographic Predictors of Loneliness Across the Adult Life Span in Portugal” agreed that divorce increases the likelihood of loneliness—though it did not ask whether having children in the picture might ameliorate the problem. Oddly, one can read through many “loneliness studies” without seeing reference to children, a striking omission that says a good deal about our era.

The secular culture is taking note. In Sweden, a 2015 documentary on The Swedish Theory of Love questioned the dominance of “independence” in that country as an ideal. It seems more a curse than a blessing when one-half of Swedes now live in households of one. As a report put it,

A man is alone in his flat. He has been lying there dead for three weeks—people only noticing his demise when an awful smell appeared in the communal hallways. As the Swedish authorities scrutinise the case, they discover that the man has no close relatives or friends. It is highly likely that he lived lonely and alone for years, sitting solitary in front of his TV or computer. After a while, they discover that he has a daughter, but she proves impossible to locate. . . . It becomes apparent that he actually had quite a lot of money tucked away in the bank. But what does that help when he had no one to share with.

And then there’s Germany. In an article in Der Spiegel titled “Alone by the Millions: Isolation Crisis Threatens German Seniors,” the German Centre of Gerontology reports:

Over 20 percent of Germans over the age of 70 are in regular contact with only one person—or nobody. One in four receives a visit less than once a month from friends and acquaintances, and nearly one in 10 is not visited by anyone anymore. Many old people have no one who still addresses them by their first name or asks them how they are doing.

Such human poverty abounds in societies awash in material wealth. This, too, was not foreseen by those who argued for and against Humanae Vitae in 1968. Yet without doubt, what unites these tragic portraits is the sexual revolution, which by the 1970s was operating at full throttle in Western nations, driving up divorce rates, driving down marriage rates, and emptying cradles. It does not take a demographer to connect the dots; the evidence of our senses will do. As one victim poignantly summarized in Der Spiegel:

Aside from the birds, hardly anyone visits the elderly woman anymore. Erna J. has white hair and black leg braces and, like many people her age, is suffering from extreme loneliness. She was born shortly after World War I and moved into this apartment 50 years ago. Ten years later, her husband died. She has outlived all of her siblings and girlfriends. Her husband didn’t want any children. “I should have insisted on it,” says the former cook, “and then I perhaps wouldn’t be so lonely today.”

A further reality to ponder is historical, and worth reiterating at a time when hope burns eternal in some precincts that the Catholic Church will cease its intransigent insistence on supposedly retrograde points of doctrine. The churches that have accommodated themselves to the sexual revolution have imploded from within. As a headline in The Guardian put it simply in 2016, on the eve of a contentious conference at Lambeth where African representatives of the Anglican Communion dissented once more from changing moral teaching, “The Anglican schism over sexuality marks the end of a global church.”

In 1930, people would have been shocked if told that the doctrinal war over sex would shatter the Anglican Communion; that parts of the Communion would go to legal war over churches and jurisdictions as well as doctrine; that the separation of North and South, Episcopal and Anglican, Africa and Europe, would yield divisions and subdivisions, sorrow and acrimony, on a global scale.

In 1998, Bishop John Shelby Spong of Newark, New Jersey, a leader of the Episcopalian Church who urged an embrace of the sexual revolution, published a book called Why Christianity Must Change or Die, agitating for still more dismantling of the tradition. The Christianity of which he spoke did change, exactly as he and others hoped. And now the retooled version they fought for is dying. According to David Goodhew, editor of the 2016 volume Growth and Decline in the Anglican Communion: 1980 to the Present, research by Jeremy Bonner on the Episcopal Church shows that:

Around 2000 serious decline set in. . . . Average Sunday attendance dropped by nearly one third between 2000 and 2015. . . . The rate of baptism has been cut almost in half over a thirty-year period. . . . The most dramatic data is for marriages. . . . In 2015 the Episcopal Church married less than a quarter of the number it married in 1980.

The sad facts of religious history in favor of Paul VI’s prophetic stance make their own case. Disaster descended on the Anglican Communion for doing exactly what dissenters from Humanae Vitae want the Catholic Church to do: make exceptions to rules that people find difficult. Surely anyone urging Rome to follow Lambeth’s lead today must first explain how Catholicism’s fate will be different. As David Goodhew also noted in his online piece “Facing Episcopal Church Decline”: “If we believe Christian faith is good news, we should be seeking its proliferation, and be worried when it shrinks.”

Manuscripts don’t burn.” In Mikhail Bulgakov’s twentieth-century masterpiece The Master and Margarita, a despairing author trapped under oppressive Soviet rule tries to destroy his own unpublished book in a fire—only to learn, in the redemptive denouement, that it’s impossible. Bulgakov could see with his soul what he would never witness with his eyes. Too dangerous to publish under Communism, The Master and Margarita itself would not appear until almost thirty years after the novelist’s death in 1940—whereupon it became, and remains, a literary sensation around the world.

“Manuscripts don’t burn” became an immortal rallying cry on behalf of the indomitable nature of truth. Truth, artistic or otherwise, may be unwanted, inconvenient, resented, mocked in all the best places—even harassed, suppressed, and forced underground. But that does not make it anything other than truth.

In this moment of watchfulness inside and outside the Church, a global fellowship knows the truths of Humanae Vitae and related teachings astruths, however unwanted or hard. They are among the latest pilgrims in a line stretching two thousand years back. They have sacrificed to stand where they do, and they sacrifice still—including by relinquishing the good opinion of a mocking world.

These cradle Catholics and converts and reverts, fellow-traveling non-Catholics, clergy and laity alike have the consolation of one final realidad, which may be the most important reality of all. Whatever the anxieties of the moment, however prominent or widespread the disgruntlement, the ever-growing empirical record continues to vindicate Paul VI’s encyclical. Humanae Vitae doesn’t burn.

Mary Eberstadt is a senior research fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute and author of several books, including How the West Really Lost God and Adam and Eve After the Pill.

By Mary Eberstadt and published in First Things in April 2018 and can be found here.

Parties in Dependency: Proper Notice and Participation Is Essential

The stakes in a dependency matter are extremely high.  Indeed, one’s parental rights over his child could be forever terminated in such a matter, so it is imperative that the parties involved receive sufficient notification of the hearings which take place and are given a full opportunity to participate.  The trial court, in In the Interest of K.S., a Minor, Appeal of: A.L.W., 2017 WL 1162449, has made it clear that proper notice and participation of the parties is absolutely essential in a dependency case.

In K.S., the child-at-issue (“Child”) was placed into a series of homes due to mistreatment and/or an inability of the Child’s parents to care for the Child.  Due to the instability of the Child’s housing, Children and Youth Services (“CYS”) eventually filed a Shelter Care Application requesting temporary placement of the Child into the custody of CYS.  A hearing was scheduled for the Shelter Care Application, however the Child’s mother (hereinafter “Mother”) and father were both incarcerated at the time of that hearing.

The attorney for Mother appeared at the hearing and requested a continuance of the same because, while Mother wanted to attend the hearing, she was unable to do so due to her incarceration and, perhaps more importantly, the prison in which she was incarcerated refused to allow her to participate at the hearing by telephone.  CYS opposed the continuance request on the basis that Mother, regardless of whether she could participate at the hearing, could not receive custody of the Child due to her incarceration.  In other words, as placement was the subject of the hearing, and Mother could not receive placement, her participation would not result in her receiving placement regardless of whether she appears and/or participates.

The trial court agreed with CYS and denied the continuance.  CYS then proceeded to request an Adjudicatory Hearing, with Mother’s attorney objecting again due to her unavailability.  The trial court overruled Mother’s attorney’s objection and granted CYS’s request to adjudicate the Child dependent.

The trial court, at the conclusion of the hearing, adopted CYS’s recommendations, issued a Shelter Care Order, granted CYS custody of the Child, and issued a Dependency Order.  Mother subsequently filed a timely notice of appeal of the above-described court orders.  Mother raised two issues on appeal: (1) she believed the trial court erred in denying her ability to participate in the above-described hearing; and (2) she believed the trial court erred in determining that the best interests of the Child would be served by denying her due process.  Mother pointed out that there were no exigent circumstances which required an immediate adjudication of the case before affording her opportunity to participate.

On appeal, Mother argued that the clear operation of the relevant procedural rules regarding notice and service were violated which justifies vacating the trial court’s adoption of CYS’s recommendation.  In making her argument, pointed out three procedural rules.  First, Mother argued that there was a lack of compliance with Pennsylvania Rules of Juvenile Court Procedure Rule 1331.  Rule 1331(A) states that “[u]pon the filing of a petition, a copy of the petition shall be served promptly upon the child, the child’s guardian, the child’s attorney, the guardian’s attorney, the attorney for the county agency, and the county agency.”  Furthermore, even if the parent is not a child’s guardian, she still must receive service of a Dependency Petition.  Second, Mother points to a failure to abide by Pa.R.J.C.P. 1361 which requires the following: “[t]he court shall give notice of the adjudicatory hearing to…(4) the parents….”  Third, Mother also argues that the requirement of the terms of Pa.R.J.C.P. 1360(A), namely, “[t]he court shall issue a summons compelling all parties to appear for the adjudicatory hearing” was not complied with by the trial court.  Rule 1360 goes on to say: “[t]he summons shall: (1) be in writing; (2) set forth the date, time, and place of the adjudicatory hearing; (3) instruct the child and the guardian about their rights to counsel, and if the child’s guardian is without financial resources or otherwise unable to employ counsel, the right to assigned counsel; (4) give a warning stating that the failure to appear for the hearing may result in arrest; and (5) include a copy of the petition unless the petition has been previously served.”  Fourth, pursuant to Pa.R.J.C.P. 1406(A)(1)(a), the trial court was to specifically ascertain whether the notice requirements of Pa.R.J.C.P. 1360 and 1361 were met (the Rule specifically states “(1) Notification. Prior to commencing the proceedings, the court shall ascertain: (a) whether notice requirements pursuant to Rules 1360 and 1361 have been met….”

Upon the Superior Court’s review of the underlying matter, it observed that the trial court failed to comply with the Rules noted above.  First, the Dependency Petition in this case was filed the same day as the Shelter Hearing and appears in the record after the entry of the Shelter Care Order.  Obviously Mother could not have received service of the Petition per Rule 1331.  Second, due to the timing of the Petition, as compared to the applicable Shelter Care Order, Mother simply could not have received service per Rule 1331.  Third, the notice of the Adjudicatory Hearing was, strangely, entered on the same day as the hearing itself, and therefore obviously could not have provided Mother notice per Rule 1361.  Fourth, while there appears to have been a summons issued per Rule 1360, no affidavit of service was filed for the same pursuant to Pa.R.J.C.P. 1363.  As a result, there is nothing in the record suggesting Mother was properly served with the summons.  Furthermore, nothing in the record reflects any reasonable efforts to notify Mother of the above were made (see Rule 1363(E)).  To that end, Superior Court observed that due to the prison’s inability to provide Mother with the opportunity to telephonically appear at the hearing, she could not have been provided notice during the hearing itself.  Finally, the trial court never even took the opportunity to ascertain if the service requirements of Rules 1360 and 1361 were met before moving forward with the Adjudicatory Hearing.

Based on the above, the Superior Court held that the trial court abused its discretion by holding an Adjudicatory Hearing without ensuring strict compliance with the service rules noted above.  Consequently, the Superior Court vacated the trial court’s order and remanded the case for a new hearing ensuring Mother can participate.  Ultimately, for practitioners, this decision makes it abundantly clear that the service requirements noted above will be strictly enforced requiring that ensuring compliance is paramount.

Originally published in The Legal Intelligencer on July 11, 2017 and can be found here and republished in the Pennsylvania Family Lawyer in its October 2017 issue and can be found here.

Inmate Has Broader Damage Remedy Under RFRA Than Under RLUIPA

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Crowder v. Lariva2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 122966 (SD IN, Sept. 12, 2016), an Indiana federal district court permitted a Hebrew Israelite inmate to move ahead against one of the prison chaplains on his complaint that he was denied a kosher diet. Because plaintiff was a federal inmate, he sued (in addition to his 1st Amendment claim) under RFRA instead of RLUIPA, and the court held that he had broader remedies as a result:

Jones [the chaplain] also argues that because the Seventh Circuit in Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 887 (7th Cir. 2009), held that the similarly-worded RLUIPA does not allow for the collection of money damages against individuals, the same reasoning should apply to RFRA. But there are at least two important differences between RLUIPA and RFRA that compel a different conclusion. First, … the statutory language of RFRA defines “government” as, among other things, an “official (or other person acting under color of law).” …Congress thus envisioned at least some individual-capacity suits under RFRA…. Second, RFRA, which applies to federal action, and RLUIPA, which is applicable to state action, arise from different principles.,,, [T]he portion of RFRA that authorizes lawsuits against the states was held unconstitutional because such an application exceeded Congress’s power under the Enforcement Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment in City of Boerne v. Flores…. RLUIPA was enacted in response to City of Boerne … as an exercise of Congress’s spending power[.] …[I]nterpreting that statute to allow damages actions against state officials in their individual capacities would ‘raise serious questions regarding whether Congress had exceeded its [constitutional] authority.'” … [S]uch considerations are not at issue when applying RFRA because RFRA’s application to federal action is not based on the Spending Clause…. For these reasons, the Court concludes that RFRA does allow for the recovery of monetary damages against officers in their individual capacities

You can learn more about this issue here.

WHERE IS GOD? THE PROBLEM OF DIVINE HIDDENNESS

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Word on Fire which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

________________

If God exists, where is he?

Moreover if God is all-loving and all-powerful, why hasn’t he shown himself to the world? He’s all loving: why would he leave any room for doubt? He’s all-powerful: why not reveal himself in the most spectacular of ways that would make unbelief impossible?

I’ll start by admitting that the argument from the hiddenness of God is a reasonable objection; and I’ll also admit that there are days when I wonder to myself in exasperation, “God where are you?” I think it’s a fair question; but just because a question is fair does not mean it’s irrefutable. Good questions often have good answers; and I think this particular question of God’s hiddenness has, in return, some reasonable answers.

This is really an objection regarding an absence of evidence for God. Surely you’ve heard it said that absence of evidence is not evidence of absence; but this isn’t always true. Absence of evidence can be good evidence of absence if:

1. We should expect more evidence than we find. (Should there be more evidence?)

2. We exhaust all possible ways of investigation for evidence. (Have we done enough looking around?)

But my contention is that (1) God has provided sufficient evidence for reasonable belief (2) thorough investigation reveals good evidence for God’s existence. In other words, the obscurity of God’s presence in the world is not sufficient evidence to prove that God does not exist.

Here are a few points to consider:

First, God is not entirely hidden. He just doesn’t appear today in a way directly accessible to the physical senses, as your friends, spouse, or boss do. But discovery by bodily experience is only one way to learn truths. We can also learn things by logic and reason.

At the end of the day, something is convincing people today of God’s existence, and has for the last twenty centuries. Growth in education and scientific advancement has not put a damper on the life of the Church. (On the contrary, growth in education and science can historically be attributed largely to the Church.) Christians, by and large, don’t just put blind trust in the notion that God exists; they are convinced. This conviction is what drives evangelization (inviting nonbelievers into the fold), debate, radical life changes at times of conversion, and most impressively, martyrdom. The religious conviction of Christians does not happen coincidentally; reasons drive conversion and belief.

Second, God is all-knowing and we are not. We can think like God, but not as God. Consider the following argument:

1. If God exists, then he would do X, Y, and Z.

2. But he doesn’t do X, Y, and Z.

3. Therefore God does not exist.

The problem with the major premise is that it assumes we can know exactly what it’s like to be God; and more specifically what it’s like to reason as God. But to think with omniscience and act with omnipotence as the eternal Creator is outside of our limited human experience. (Imagine an ant trying to understand quantum mechanics.) We cannot fill God’s shoes, nor can his “brain” fill our heads. As G.K. Chesterton remarks in Orthodoxy:

The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.

God may have good reasons for his “hiddenness” that we just don’t see. But this doesn’t mean we can’t make logical inferences and get partway to a good explanation. We just can’t arrive at a full explanation apart from God’s direct revelation.

Third, God desires man to seek him. We know this because he said it:

“Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt 7:7-8)

This is not a direct promise from God that he will grant everything at our immediate request, like a genie in a bottle. But God promises providence to all who acknowledge him with trust—like a father to his child—that he will give us what we ask for (provided that we ask for what is good for us).

A twelve-year-old atheist might pray a desperate prayer to God in hopes that God will reveal himself—but in the end may not “find” God until he is eighty-six years old and minutes away from physical death. Another twelve-year-old atheist may pray the same prayer and be knocked onto his knees at the moment he says “Amen.” Why God seems to answer some prayers immediately, and not others, is a mystery. Likely it is often ourselves—and not God—who stand in the way of God’s immediate “delivery of the goods.” Or it may be that God desires for us to struggle for a while—perhaps for a long while—that we might grow or be improved in some way.

God is not interested in numbing us from all pain and suffering in this life. Christianity is not a get-out-of-suffering-free card. God is interested in granting us eternity, free of all suffering and pain and illuminated by unimaginable joy, in the next life: in life after death in heaven, and life after life after death at our bodily resurrection.

The more we seek God, the more he’s likely to reveal himself. The more he reveals himself, the more we’ll come to know him. Remember Aslan’s words to Lucy in Prince Caspian,

“Every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”

Fourth, it may be that God desires only those who seek him to see him. This was Blaise Pascal’s best guess. God has revealed himself in such a way, posits Pascal, that those who seek him sincerely will indeed find him, but those who do not seek him will not. He writes:

It was not, then, right that He should appear in a manner manifestly divine, and completely capable of convincing all men; but it was also not right that He should come in so hidden a manner that He could not be known by those who should sincerely seek Him.

He has willed to make himself….appear openly to those who seek Him with all their heart, and to be hidden from those who flee from Him with all their heart. He so regulates the knowledge of Himself that He has given signs of Himself, visible to those who seek Him, and not to those who seek Him not. (Pensee 430)

Fifth, there are sufficient reasons to believe in God despite his “hiddenness.” There are good reasons to believe in God and these reasons drive our hope. God is hidden now; but not forever, provided we persevere in faith and love to the end (see Mat 10:22, Matt 15:4-7; Rom 11:22).

St. Paul writes that “Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Rom 1:20). Vatican I confirmed that we can know God exists through reason alone. And the point is this: we cannot see God directly in nature—but we can see his footprints, as it were. St. Thomas Aquinas developed this idea and demonstrated the truth of St. Paul’s claim in the thirteenth century, particularly in his Summa theologiae and Summa contra gentiles building upon the intellectual foundation of pagan philosophers like Aristotle and Plato.

If the universe had a beginning (as many scientists, both atheist and believer, are willing to grant), there are good explanations for it. The kalam cosmological argument and Leibniz’s argument from contingency give air-tight philosophical explanations (using science to support their premises) for how the universe must have a cause that is eternal, spiritual, all-powerful, and intentional. Furthermore, logical incoherencies of an actual infinity of past events make an eternal universe improbable. But even if the world was eternal, according to Aquinas’ arguments the world still needs and explanation outside of itself—an explanation that points to a being who looks very much like God.

Thus, the origin of the universe (and the vastly improbable life-permitting universe we find ourselves in) give us good reasons to believe in an all-powerful Creator; and the argument from objective morality suggest that God is, in fact, all-good and the standard of all goodness.

God has given us good reasons to believe in an intelligent Creator; and indeed these reasons have convinced most through the ages. We might thus ask the atheist: On what basis should we expect more evidence from him?

Sixth, God may not want to “scare” us into belief. Perhaps God has given us just enough evidence of himself to keep us interested in him, that we might continually seek him. A direct revelation of God that cannot be denied may just scare people into obedience. But God wants obedience from his children out of love, not out of fear. Seeing God is not to have faith in him.

Remember the words of St. James: “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder” (Jas 2:19)

Seventh, God’s hiddenness allows us to help one another to believe. This explanation has been proposed by philosopher Richard Swinburne. God has revealed himself enough so that many people have come to believe—the Church has not tired. But many people are tired because they do not have hope.

God’s hiddenness gives believers an opportunity to have compassion, and to grow in virtue, particularly towards unbelievers. It provides an opportunity to evangelize, to grow in patience, gentleness, and reverence, and to grow in faith ourselves by responding to tough skeptical objections. If God’s existence was obvious to the whole world, apologetics and evangelization might look a lot different than it does.

Eighth, the testimony of miracles are temporary events where God does in fact reveal himself in a more accessible way. There are many miracles described in the Bible. But miracles—events in nature that require a supernatural explanation—are not a thing of the past.

David Hume believed that miracles were not part of human experience; but scholar Craig Keener begs to differ. Keener has assembled a massive two-volume work demonstrating that, in fact, millions of people even today claim to have experienced a miracle through belief in God (perhaps through prayer or some other religious means).

Of course, testimony itself doesn’t prove the validity of the claim, but based on the numbers it very well could be that at least one of these is a true miracle. (Indeed, there are many accounts of atheist investigators, medical specialists for example, who are hired to investigate and become believers as a result of their findings.)

It only takes one miracle to show God’s existence. And as long as God’s existence remains possible, miracles remain possible. I think there are good reason to believe God has revealed himself, time and time again through the ages, by miraculous intervention.

Ninth, an apparently supreme and undeniable manifestation of God’s existence may not guarantee “God did it.” A “sign in the sky,” for example, could be aliens playing a prank on us. Sounds silly. How would you know for certain it wasn’t?

A much more convincing manifestation of divine existence would be God actually dwelling among us in the flesh; but would this guarantee faith in those who encounter him?

Tenth, God has revealed himself to us directly. He did so in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was born of a virgin, possessed inexplicable wisdom (even as a child) that shocked the “educated,” turned water into wine, multiplied loaves and fishes, prophecied and fulfilled prophecies, calmed storms, performed exorcisms, restored the dead to life, triggered radical conversions, performed countless physical healings, loved like only God could love, died a terrible death on the cross after being scourged half to death—and finally, rose from the dead in a glorified body that could pass through walls yet still eat broiled fish.

Jesus claimed to be the one God of the Israel—the one God of the universe—and gave the people he encountered every reason to believe it. Yet people still disbelieved firmly; even firmly enough to execute him in the end.

Maybe God knows that a more obvious—even blatant—presence in the world right now wouldn’t be the “Ah ha!” moment many skeptics believe it would be.

Maybe God’s hiddenness is an act of mercy.

Down in adoration falling,
Lo! the sacred Host we hail,
Lo! oe’r ancient forms departing
Newer rites of grace prevail;
Faith for all defects supplying,
Where the feeble senses fail.

By Matt Nelson in Word on Fire and published on October 24, 2018 and can be found here.

 

 

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