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A Question for Historians: Robert Mueller’s Incapacity

 

To say that Robert S. Mueller III did not distinguish himself in his Congressional testimony Wednesday would be an understatement. His answers were halting, when not evasive, and he repeatedly had to ask that a question be repeated. Long before his appearance before the Judiciary and Intelligence committees, there had been rumors that he was senile.

His testimony today suggests two possibilities: that he really is senile, or that he is pretending to be so in order to avoid having to explain his conduct as Special Prosecutor. If the latter is true, it had to do with his reluctance to discuss his decision to hire a host of hyper-partisan Democrats, such as Andrew Weissman, to do the footwork on the case and with his failure to investigate the origins of the Fusion GPS report and to consider the possibility that the Russians made clever use of the Clinton campaign.

I am, however, inclined to suppose that the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation is senile and that he was already suffering from dementia when he was named Special Prosecutor. This would explain a great deal. If, in effect, the hyper-partisan Andrew Weissman was in charge, it would explain why, though by then they knew that he was innocent, the Special Prosecutor and his team did not exonerate Donald Trump of collusion with the Russians prior to the 2018 midterms. It would also explain the absence of any curiosity concerning Christopher Steele and the Fusion GPS report. And, of course, it would explain all the malarkey about obstruction of justice.

Donald Trump is an impulsive man. He knew that he was innocent of the charge being weighed by the Special Prosecutor, and he rightly discerned from the outset that Mueller’s appointment was a ploy aimed at his ouster. That this would enrage a man of his temperament is no surprise. But let’s face it. If you were on the receiving end of such treatment, you would be more than annoyed. That Trump would thrash about seeking the means for getting off the hook also makes sense, as does his rancor against Jeff Sessions, who allowed himself to be bulldozed by the staff of the Department of Justice. But, in the end, Trump did nothing to interfere with the investigation.

There are two matters that need investigation: the attempt to cripple an administration on … er … trumped-up charges, and the larger attempt to make the Department of Justice independent of the President, who is charged by the Constitution with the execution of the laws. William Barr and his merry women and men have their work cut out for them.

Breasts

 

Now that I have your attention, I wish to direct it to a split decision handed down today by the 10th Circuit. On equal-protection grounds, the court struck down an ordinance in place in Fort Collins, CO forbidding women from baring their breasts in public except for the purpose of breastfeeding. Ed Whelan at National Review is on the case, and he reports the following:

In his majority opinion (joined by Judge Mary Beck Briscoe), Judge Gregory A. Phillips cites with approval the district court’s objection that the ordinance “perpetuates a stereotype engrained in our society that female breasts are primarily objects of sexual desire whereas male breasts are not.” In a classic false dichotomy, Phillips concludes that the city’s “professed interest in protecting children derives not from any morphological differences between men’s and women’s breasts but from negative stereotypes depicting women’s breasts, but not men’s breasts, as sex objects.” Ditto for “notions of morality” that might underlie the law.

The minority opinion, which Whelan quotes at length, is, as he points out, quite sensible. The difference between the two opinions, I would add, comes down to the majority’s acceptance of this absurd dogma: there is no natural difference between women and men worth noticing. Nearly everything that we used to attribute to sexual difference is explicable in terms of gender — which, when the term is appropriated from grammar and applied to human beings (as it first was ca. 1960), means that it is arbitrary . . . a social construct . . . and nothing more. Therefore, the law cannot take cognizance of the differences between women and men.

What is missing from the majority’s opinion is a recognition that the artificial mores and manners that we construct with an eye to the sexual differences supplied by nature are constructed on the foundation of those natural differences. These mores and manners differ somewhat from one society to another, but there is no civilization that fails to articulate mores and manners of this sort, and that is telling. Moreover, the majority willfully ignores the fact that, within this astonishing diversity of mores and manners, there is considerable uniformity and that this uniformity is a product of rumination concerning the import of natural sexual differences on the part of a vast number of human beings who are on other matters at odds.

The sad truth is that the dogma that provided the foundation for the 10th circuit’s decision is shared by nearly everyone who teaches at the colleges and universities in this country and that the credentialed elite produced by these institutions is by and large on board with this nonsense. What makes it particularly astonishing is that this dogma has gradually become established in an era in which students of biology have gone the other direction — suggesting that nature, rather than nurture, is the primary influence on the way we customarily think and the way we live. On the one side, there is ideology. On the other, there is science. We as a country are choosing the former.

I have no doubt that the Supreme Court will overturn this decision, which is at odds with the positions taken by other circuits. But we should not kid ourselves about what lies ahead.

The Weekly Standard, R.I.P.

 

Today, Philip Anschutz shut down The Weekly Standard. I, for one, wish that he had refrained from doing so. I do not mean to say that I agree with the stance Bill Kristol has taken with regard to Trump. I have known Bill for decades, and I have a great deal of respect for him. But I think him in error. Trump’s flaws are obvious, but the available alternatives are worse — and the man has not only done a number of good things. He has also forced a rethinking of post-Cold war policies with regard to the economy and our posture in the larger world that have pretty obviously failed.

But whether or not I think Bill right or in error on this point does not matter much. He founded and for quite a number of years edited a magazine that was nearly always thoughtful and a pleasure to read. Steve Hayes, who took it over when Trump became President, has done a terrific job, and there is nothing out there that will replace it.

If you doubt my testimony, dig up the 17 December issue (which reached my mailbox today), and read the cover story on Cory Booker. It is both entertaining and enlightening. Read the reviews as well. They have been more often than not been fascinating. The death of a little intellectual magazine of quality is a great misfortune. There are very few places left to which one can turn.

Bankruptcy and the Boy Scouts

 

This morning, I caught a squib in The Wall Street Journal reporting that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is contemplating filing for bankruptcy as a consequence of “dwindling membership and escalating legal costs related to lawsuits over how it handled allegations of sex abuse.”

I was aware of the decline in participation and I had a pretty good understanding of some of the causes. But I had somehow missed the fact that there was a sex abuse scandal — perhaps because 27 years have passed since it was exposed in The Washington Times and 24 since Patrick Boyle published his book on the subject: Scout’s Honor: Sexual Abuse in America’s Most Trusted Institution.

The article in The Wall Street Journal was strangely reticent. It did not specify what species of sexual abuse was involved. When I turned to Wikipedia, which has a good entry summarizing what Boyle and his colleagues at The Washington Times turned up, I discovered that what I suspected was true — that the misconduct involved was very much like that which plagued the Roman Catholic Church worldwide in the five decades preceding 2001. Prior to 1988 — when, in response to the problem, the BSA set up its Youth Protection Program — there had been quite a number of scoutmasters and others involved in scouting who had abused the trust of the boys and young men under their care for the purpose of sexual gratification. Put simply, in those years, pederasty was almost as much a problem for the Boy Scouts as it was for the Roman Catholic Church.

The reticence evident in The Wall Street Journal article appears to stem from the political correctness of its author and, perhaps, her editor. Here is the last paragraph in the print-edition version: “The Boy Scouts group has drawn scrutiny over its slow pace to become more inclusive, including by lifting a ban in 2015 on gay men and lesbians serving in leadership roles.”

Take a moment and read that last sentence twice. Then, ask yourself what was the sexual orientation of the scoutmasters and the others involved with the BSA who abused the boys. I do not mean to suggest that all or even most of those who are homoerotically inclined are prone to the abuse of minors. I know that this is untrue. But I would suggest that heterosexually inclined men are a much safer bet.

If this claim causes you to recoil, I suggest that you ask yourself this. Suppose that you had a child — say, a pretty daughter — who was in her early teen years, and suppose that you and your spouse were going out for an evening or away for a weekend. Would you think twice before hiring a high school or college boy to look after her?

That is, you might say, a no-brainer. To hire a young man is to risk letting the fox into the hen house. Given the fact that human beings can stand up to almost anything other than temptation, the prudent thing to do would be to hire a caretaker who is most unlikely to find your daughter alluring.

In 2015, under the leadership of  Robert M. Gates and Rex W. Tillerson, the Boy Scouts of America surrendered to the Zeitgeist and did what you would never do: they invited those most apt to be foxes into the hen house. Later, the BSA opened its programs to girls and transsexual boys. For the Mormons, who were major contributors to scouting, this was the last straw, and it is their withdrawal that has brought the BSA to its knees. First, in the interests of political correctness, came moral bankruptcy. It looks as if financial bankruptcy will follow.

The Boy Scouts once had a noble mission — the formation of vigorous, manly, virtuous men at home in the great outdoors. I know something about this. I was myself an Eagle Scout. Now, however, thanks to a corporate culture in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s less interested in protecting young people than in covering up scandals and thanks also to the moral weakness in 2015 of a former Secretary of Defense and a future Secretary of State, it completely lost its way. The demise of the Boy Scouts is a sign of the miserable times in which we now live.

The Abbottabad Archive and the Silence of the Chattering Classes

 

Earlier this week, Mary Habeck — a military historian whom I first met some twenty-three years ago when she was an assistant professor and I, a visiting professor at Yale — came to Hillsdale to give a talk for our local Alexander Hamilton Society. Over lunch, she told me something that I did not know — which set my mind a-wandering. Just over a year ago, the Central Intelligence Agency posted online nearly all of the materials collected from Osama Bin Laden’s lair by the Navy Seals who effected his demise.

This is no small trove. There are tens of thousands of pages of material, and items in the collection spell out in detail Al Q’aeda’s dealings with the governments of Pakistan and Iran — among others.

That I knew nothing of this is passing strange. I am not a War on Terror obsessive, but I follow the affairs of the Middle East closely, and I read widely. For an historian — indeed, for a journalist or policy wonk — such an archive is invaluable. It allows one to ascertain where previously one could only guess.

And yet . . . when I go to the internet in search of reports concerning what this archive includes and what its contents can tell us about the developments of the last twenty years I find next to nothing. I went to Pravda-on-the-Hudson, I searched, and I found no mention of this material. I did the same on the website of Pravda-on-the-Potomac; and I tried The Wall Street Journal as well; and I found nothing in either paper. It is no wonder that I knew nothing. The only informative article I found in the public prints was a piece by Steve Hayes in The Weekly Standard on the reasons why the release took place.

There was, to be sure, a snippet in USA Today early in November 2017, and CNN mentioned the release at that time, as did ABC, CBS, and US News. Moreover, the Long War Journal did a descriptive piece of some value. But our leading newspapers, such as they are, did nothing. One would have thought that they would have found reporters, versed in Arabic, to go over at least some of the 470,000 documents released. But this they did not do. It is as if no one these days has the resources to do any serious reporting. It is as if no one involved at the editorial level in our leading journals cares a whit.

Someday, perhaps, a scholar — perhaps even Mary Habeck, who eleven years ago published a book on jihadism and remains interested in the topic — will exploit this treasure trove of documents. But, should she do so, would anybody outside a dry academic journal even bother to review the book? In a world obsessed with gender-bending, does anyone within the chattering class care about terrorism, war, peace, and the conduct of foreign policy more generally? Something is very much amiss, and we are apt someday to pay in spades for our silly self-indulgence.

Only in America . . .

 

Every once in awhile, I come across a headline that elicits a laugh. This one from the Drudge Report may not be my all-time favorite: Dead brothel owner wins... But it is awfully good.

It happened in Nevada, where Dennis Hof, the owner of the Love Ranch and other destination spots, passed away on 16 October, and the citizens residing in his rural state assembly district preferred him dead to Lesia Romanov, his Democratic opponent, alive. I suspect that, had I lived in the district, I, too, would have voted for the deceased.

He was apparently a well-known figure. Here is what the local NBC affiliate had to say:

He also starred in the HBO adult reality series “Cathouse” and wrote a book titled “The Art of the Pimp,” akin to Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal.” . . . His body was discovered by porn actor Ron Jeremy and a prostitute at the brothel. Hof had spent the four previous days partying with notables from the sex industry and political world celebrating his 72nd birthday.

Hof had run before as a Libertarian, but he was attracted into the Republican Party by our current President. My view is that they should embalm the body and install it at a desk in the state house. The man is likely to do less harm than anyone who regularly sits at any of the other desks.

Hospitalization and Higher Education: Price-Gouging

 

Mark Perry of the American Enterprise Association recently posted a chart that is getting a lot of attention because it is highly revealing:

As you can see, over the last two decades, the price of some things — housing and foodstuffs — has remained more or less steady if measured in constant dollars. Technological advances have brought down the cost of automobiles, household furnishings, and clothing, and they have dramatically reduced the cost of cellphone service, computer software, toys, and TVs. Wages have modestly grown, and the cost of childcare and medical services has gone up a bit. The shocker, however, is that the price charged for hospital care, college textbooks, and college tuition has gone up astronomically.

In the case of hospital care, there may be some excuse. The quality of medicine has improved dramatically in the last twenty years, and that comes at a price. Whether the increase in cost is fully justified I doubt. My suspicion is that the absence of market forces — the fact that there is no price transparency in the field of hospital care — has opened the door to gouging. The Trump administration, to its credit, seems to be aware of the problem.

In the case of higher education, there is no excuse. Our universities and colleges are not better today than they were in 1997. To be sure, they are more like country clubs. The facilities now available are impressive. But if you think that the ultimate test is what goes on in the classroom you will have to conclude that we have gone dramatically downhill. Nor is it the case that faculties have increased much in size or that their salaries have gone up a great deal. The real change is administrative bloat, and administrative salaries are considerably higher than faculty salaries.

This is a scandal, and something should be done about it — especially in the public institutions. For they are the worst offenders. If I were running for Governor in some state, I would try to make hay out of this, and I would attack them for their use of “adjunct professors,” who are paid a pittance. In today’s America, the people most apt to engage in moral posturing and virtue-signaling are the ones most likely to exploit the weak position of those under their supervision.

American Catholicism: A Renewed Call to Action — A Second Post Reposted

 

Six years ago, on 14 February 2012, I posted a piece on the state of the Catholic Church in the wake of the so-called pedophilia scandal. I regret to have to say that it remains pertinent now — one month after the death of Richard Sipe, the foremost expert on clerical abuse, whom I quote at length below. Most of the links are functional — apart from the one that once led to Sipe’s website, which can now be found at awrsipe.com. As Sipe put it 25 years ago, “The problem of sexual abuse we see today is only the tip of the iceberg. If we follow the problem to its foundations it will lead to the highest corridors of the Vatican.”

Last Friday, I posted on Ricochet a piece entitled American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil. In it, among other things, I traced the crisis now faced by American Catholicism to the reign within the American Church of Joseph Bernardin, Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago. In my haste, I got a detail or two wrong, and I was challenged not only with regard to the Cardinal’s cursus honorum but also with regard to the role he played in the scandal concerning the sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic clergy. This post is meant to correct the record with regard to minor details, to flesh it out with regard to the profound damage done the American Church by Cardinal Bernardin, and to suggest that we might be witnessing a turning of the tide.

In doing so, I will draw on various sources. But let me say at the outset that the most important of these is the article The End of the Bernardin Era: The Rise, Dominance, and Decline of a Culturally Accommodating Catholicism published by George Weigel in February 2011 in First Things. Here, in Weigel’s words, is the pre-eminent fact:

In his prime, Joseph Bernardin was arguably the most powerful Catholic prelate in American history; he was certainly the most consequential since the heyday of James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. When he was in his early forties, Bernardin was the central figure in defining the culture and modus operandi of the U.S. bishops’ conference. Later, when he became archbishop of Cincinnati and cardinal archbishop of Chicago, Bernardin’s concept and style of episcopal ministry set the pattern for hundreds of U.S. bishops. Bernardin was also the undisputed leader of a potent network of prelates that dominated the affairs of the American hierarchy for more than two decades; observers at the time dubbed it the “Bernardin Machine.”

CardinalBernadin2.jpgHere are some of the details. Bernardin was born in 1928 in Columbia, South Carolina. He was ordained a priest for the Charleston diocese in 1952. His talents were recognized immediately, and he rocketed up the clerical ladder. He was a monsignor within seven years. By 1966, he was an auxiliary bishop in Atlanta. Two years later, he was named the general secretary of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), the forerunner of today’s United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). The NCCB was at that time new; Bernardin was the very first to serve as its general secretary; and he was one of the two men who shaped the institution – which to this day formulates policy for the American bishops.

In 1972, Joseph Bernardin became Archbishop of Cincinnati, and two years later he was named – at the ripe old age of forty-six – the presiding officer of the NCCB. In his years as an official of that body, he hired its staff, and he put his stamp on the organization. Moreover, for decades, the principal posts in the NCCB would be in the hands of Bernardin himself or of one of “Bernardin’s boys,” as they were called. His first five successors as presiding officer of the NCCB — John Quinn, John Roach, James Malone, John May, and Daniel Pilarczyk – were his nominees. Moreover, as George Weigel makes clear, the Bernardin era did not end when the Cardinal died of pancreatic cancer in 1996. In fact, it was not fully over until November 2010, when Archbishop Timothy Dolan of the city of New York was elected the presiding officer of the UCCB in preference to Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, who had started his episcopal career as one of Bernardin’s auxiliaries. As Diogenes at CatholicCulture.Org put it some years ago, “It is almost impossible to over-estimate the importance of Cardinal Bernardin to the U.S. Catholic Church; on that point his critics and admirers are unanimous. Like Bismarck or Stalin or Richard Daley, he created and presided over a bureaucracy whose impersonality became his personal tool, and the way the USCCB does business bears his stamp to this day.”

The church that dissolved in scandal in 2002 – when The Boston Globe began reporting on the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests and the protection provided the malefactors by Bernard Francis Cardinal Law of the Boston Archdiocese and his episcopal predecessors – was Bernardin’s church. As a member of the Congregation of Bishops in Rome, he played a decisive role in picking the American bishops and in determining their assignments. Moreover, his influence was dispositive for a long time in determining who would head the bishop’s conference, and it was under the Bernardin machine that the American church decided how it would handle the grave sexual abuse scandal that erupted in the diocese of Lafayette, Louisiana in the mid-1980s.

In the wake of that event, three individuals joined together – with encouragement from the Papal Nuncio and a number of bishops – to consider the problem of the sexual abuse of minors by clergymen as it applied to the American Church as a whole. The three were Father Michael Peterson, M. D, a psychiatrist who specialized in the treatment of wayward priests.; F. Ray Mouton, J.D., the defense attorney hired by the Lafayette, Louisiana diocese to defend a priest who had sexually abused eleven different boys; and Father Thomas P. Doyle, O.P. J.C.D., a canon lawyer attached to the office of the Papal Nuncio in Washington, D. C. The confidential report produced by this committee was a bombshell. It suggested that sexual abuse was quite common. It warned about the prospect of lawsuits and predicted that the American Church would eventually have to pay out more than a billion dollars; it firmly and fiercely denied that there was any possibility of curing those who sexually abused minors; it spoke movingly about the long-term damage done those who were sexually abused as children; it argued for an immediate suspension of clergymen who were accused; and it urged the bishops to weed out from the seminaries those likely to engage in such misconduct.

Peterson, Mouton, and Doyle hoped to have their report discussed in detail by the bishops at their annual conference, but Bernardin’s boys at the NCCB saw to it that the report was tabled. Some months later, Father Peterson, who would die of AIDS in 1987, sent a copy to every bishop in the United States. He received no response. When Father Doyle insisted on pressing the issue, he was dropped by the Papal Nuncio and treated as persona non grata by the American bishops. He ended up in exile as a chaplain on a military base in Greenland, and the problem was hushed up. It was thanks to the Bernardin machine that the bishops continued sending the perpetrators to psychological counseling and then dispatching them to new parishes or to other dioceses where there was no one who knew about their past. Bernardin and his boys did not invent the culture of clerical corruption. In full knowledge of what was going on nationwide, however, they perpetuated it.

In Chicago – where Bernardin became Archbishop in 1982 and Cardinal a year later – things came to a head a full decade before they did in Boston, and, in the face of the scandal, Bernardin was, as always, nimble and effective. When the lawsuits began, and the Cook County State’s Attorney Jack O`Malley turned a baleful eye on the Archdiocese, The Chicago Tribune reported that Cardinal Bernardin “defused a conflict” with the prosecutor by issuing a “20-page guideline” for the Archdiocese, which replaced “a priest-managed investigations system with a non-clergy ‘fitness review administrator,’” tasked with reporting priestly misconduct to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, and “a nine-member board … consisting of a nun, five laypeople and three parish pastors.”

To this day, Bernardin’s admirers cite this as a sign of his integrity and courage and of his eagerness to confront the culture of corruption. In fact, it was a species of “damage control,” and it constituted a confession that, ten years after Bernardin, a vigorous and effective administrator, had taken over the Chicago Archdiocese, its priests and their archbishop could not be trusted to deal with the sexual abuse of minors by the archdiocesan clergy. In this, as in other matters, Bernardin was the model for the other bishops. It was not until O’Malley began his investigation of the Archdiocese that Bernardin made these changes. He did not introduce them voluntarily. He did so under pressure. Had The Chicago Tribune and the other newspapers in Chicago been as diligent in digging up dirt as The Boston Globe would be a decade later, the scandal that ripped through the church in 2002 might well have begun in Chicago in 1992.

RichardSipe1.jpgIn 1993, Bernardin was himself accused of sexual abuse by a former seminarian named Stephen Cook, who was dying of AIDS. Bernardin fiercely denied the charge; the Vatican and many of the American bishops rallied in his defense; and the seminarian later dropped the suit. The public story at the time was that Cook then apologized to the Cardinal. But, in the keynote address that he delivered to the LINKUP National Conference held by the survivors of clerical abuse in 2003, A. W. Richard Sipe told a different story:

A sad, and as yet unsolved, chapter of the sexual abuse saga in the United States is the story of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. This man probably did die a saint, as his close friends attest. Without doubt, he did many wonderful things for the Church in America.

In the media flurry that surrounded the allegation of sexual abuse, an impertinent reporter asked the Cardinal, “Are you living a sexually active life?” A simple “no” would have been sufficient. But the Cardinal said, “I am sixty-five years old, and I have always lived a chaste and celibate life.”

However defensible in the arena of public assault, I knew that the statement was not unassailably true. Years before, several priests who were associates of Bernardin prior to his move to Chicago revealed that they had “partied” together; they talked about their visits to the Josephinum to socialize with seminarians.

It is a fact that Bernardin’s accuser did not ever retract his allegations of abuse by anyone’s account other than Bernardin’s.

If, as reported, three million dollars were paid in handling the scandal, certainly there are still informed people in Chicago who know at least part of the story. And the story is complex. It holds repercussions far beyond Chicago and one allegation.

There are three reasons why we should not dismiss out of hand as malicious gossip Sipe’s euphemistically-phrased claims. The first is that what he reports with regard to the hush money purportedly paid the seminarian conforms to what was standard operating procedure in American dioceses at the time. The Boston Globe reports that, between 1992 and 2002, the Archdiocese of Boston secretly settled more than seventy cases of child abuse in this fashion. It would not be odd if this were done in Chicago as well. In fact, it is precisely what one would expect.

The second reason for taking Sipe’s claims seriously is the fact that what we know about the clerical sexual abuse of minors is entirely a consequence of the lawsuits brought against the church and the investigations undertaken by the secular authorities. Had it not been for these, the great game of shuttling the predators around would still be going on. There is no reason at all to accord the benefit of the doubt to the bishops. In and soon after 2002 we learned what accomplished liars they had been.

The third reason for suspecting that what Sipe reports might be right is that he is as well-informed an observer as we have. Richard Sipe is a former priest. He was a Benedictine monk for eighteen years, was laicized by the Vatican in 1970, and married. For a long period prior to his departure from the priesthood, he was involved as a psychologist in counseling priests who were having trouble leading celibate lives. He continued doing so after leaving the priesthood, and at various times both before and after he taught in Catholic seminaries. He has testified in case after case involving the sexual abuse of minors by clergymen. He has written a number of books on the subject, and he is a Catholic liberal sympathetic to the political stance of Cardinal Bernardin. I cannot prove that he is telling the truth, but there is no reason to think him a fabricator of lies. When he estimates that about 6% of the priests in the United States in the 1980s were guilty of the sexual abuse of minors and that two-thirds of the bishops had experience in shuttling these men around, his assertions are entirely plausible. The John Jay Report produced in 2004 for the Catholic bishops by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City of New York indicates that, between 1950 and 2002, 4% of the priests in the United States were accused at one time or another of child abuse, and we can be confident that there were perpetrators who were never accused. Two-thirds of these allegations were lodged between 1993 and 2003. Prior to that time, shame on the part of the victims, fear of the fury that they would incur if they went public, and an ill-deserved respect for the hierarchy of the Church generally dictated silence.

As Diogenes observes, one of the major themes of Sipe’s ruminations is that we will never fully understand what happened if we do not attend to “the connection between the sexual misdeeds of churchmen in powerful positions and the cover-ups — personal and institutional — perpetrated by men they recruited, groomed, and promoted.” Here is the way that Sipe put it in his keynote address:

Why is the fight so furious? Why is the struggle to keep FACTS buried so vigorous? Important clues exist in the genealogy of abuse. I have been able to trace victims of clergy and bishop abuse to the third generation.

Often, the history of clergy abusers reveals that the priest himself was abused – sometimes by a priest. The abuse may have occurred when the priest was a child, but not necessarily.

Sexual activity between an older priest and an adult seminarian or young priest sets up a pattern of institutional secrecy. When one of the parties rises to a position of power, his friends are in line also for recommendations and advancement.

The dynamic is not limited to homosexual liaisons. Priests and bishops who know about each other’s sexual affairs with women, too, are bound together by draconian links of sacred silence. A system of blackmail reaches into the highest corridors of the American hierarchy and the Vatican and thrives because of this network of sexual knowledge and relationships.

Secrecy flourishes, like mushrooms on a dank dung pile, even among good men in possession of the facts of the dynamic, but who cannot speak lest they violate the Scarlet Bond.

I have interviewed at length a man who was a sexual partner of Bishop James Rausch. This was particularly painful for me since Rausch and I were young priests together in Minnesota in the early 60s. He went on to get his social work degree and succeeded Bernardin as Secretary of the Bishops’ National Conference in DC. He became Bishop of Phoenix.

It is patently clear that he had an active sexual life. It did involve at least one minor. He was well acquainted with priests who were sexually active with minors (priests who had at least 30 minor victims each). He referred at least one of his own victims to these priests.

What was his sexual genealogy? What are the facts of his celibate/sexual development and practice? Did those who knew him know nothing of his life? Perhaps so! But he was in a spectacular power grid of bright men. He was Bernardin’s successor at the US Conference. Bishop Thomas Kelly at Louisville was his successor. Msgr. Daniel Hoye and Bishop Robert Lynch, among others, took over his job.

Let me be perfectly clear. I am not saying or implying in any way that these men were partners in “crime” with Jim Rausch. But I am saying that anyone who sets out to solve a mystery has to ask people who knew the principal, “What, if anything, did you know or observe about the alleged perpetrator?”

After all, the Church’s hardened resistance to dealing honestly with the problem of sexual abuse on their own has compelled the civil authorities to move in, ask the questions, investigate allegations. The Church in America has been its own worst enemy – creating mysteries and doubts, rather than clear answers that inspire confidence.

Even bishops innocent of sexual violations themselves, by their silence, concealment of facts and resistance to effective solutions, choose to be part of a genealogy of abuse and reinforce a culture of deceit.

In this speech, Sipe does not use the phrase “lavender mafia,” but his focus is the network of powerful clergymen who protected the malefactors and allowed the seminaries to become brothels. As Diogenes puts it,

We don’t need to jump to a Grand Unified Theory of conspiracy in order to recognize corruption; ordinary self-interest can account for particular incidents of ad hoc collusion by which gay bishops who are sexually compromised take care of their own. By the same token, it is absurd to pretend that politically astute gay bishops in key positions of influence could have been unaware of the liabilities of the men they advanced, defended, and perjured themselves for.

To anyone who has paid attention to the major players in the Crisis, Sipe’s roster of Bernardin cronies is striking. For a glimpse of the Southwest Triangle (Rausch, O’Brien, Moreno) go herehereherehere, and here. For Robert Lynch’s connections, go here and here. Thomas Kelly, whose archdiocese now has problems of its own, winked through Rudy Kos‘s annulment (in spite of his wife’s insistence he was a pedophile), clearing his way into the Dallas seminary headed by Michael Sheehan, who later became Archbishop of Santa Fe. A power grid indeed!

If you follow the links – most of which are still active – you will get the picture, which is in no way pretty. Too many of those who found their way into positions of influence and power thanks to the patronage of Cardinal Bernardin not only failed to honor the vow of celibacy they had themselves taken but were criminally lax in its enforcement. The effect was to foster a culture of corruption throughout the American Church and to dishearten those – whether homoerotically or heterosexually inclined – who were fiercely intent on honoring their own vows. It was in this context that the small minority who preyed on children were protected from the legal consequences of their crimes and allowed to continue. Bernardin and his proteges regarded the sexual abuse of children as a moral lapse comparable to clerical drunkenness.

NancyPelosi1.jpgIt is, as I argued in American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil, no accident that the prelates most responsible for the perpetuation of this vile modus operandi were also inclined to downplay the significance of Roe v. Wade, to divert the energy of the institutional Church into a struggle on behalf of the administrative entitlements state, and to discourage the clergy from addressing the challenge posed to Christian morality by the sexual revolution. Joseph Bernardin became the presiding officer of the NCCB shortly after the Supreme Court handed down its opinion in Roe v. Wade, and it fell to him to articulate the strategy that the Church with regard to that decision has followed ever since. As George Weigel intimates, it is a good thing that the Bernardin era has come to an end.

KathleenSebeslius.jpgOne can only hope that Archbishop Dolan is up to the task of cleaning the Augean Stables built by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. So far, he and his colleagues have done a better job than I realized when I posted American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil. When I wrote that piece, I relied on the reports in the press concerning the letter that the bishops sent to President in response to his announcement that, in providing health insurance for its employees, the Church would have to provide contraception coverage and abortifacients. In reporting on the response of the Church, the press did not mention that the bishops had in their letter come to the defense of Catholic employers and that they had made the same point with regard to companies owned and operated by the adherents of other faiths. The fact that they did so on this occasion and that in response to the “accommodation” proposed on Friday by President Obama they not only stood their ground but reasserted the rights of everyone in this matter is heartening. I would like to think that this marks a turning point in the history of Roman Catholicism in America and that, under the leadership of Archbishop Dolan, the Church in the United States will relinquish its embrace of the administrative entitlements state, abandon the presumption to an expertise in political affairs that it does not possess, and take up the responsibilities that are its proper task.

JohnKerry.jpgIn the Bernardin era, Catholic clergymen lost their way. On questions of faith and morals, they spoke in at best a muted fashion. On political questions beyond their ken, they ran their mouths incessantly. To professed Catholics who openly rejected the teaching of the Church on the pre-eminent moral issue of the day, they lent their support. Barack Obama has now shown them the price that they will have to pay if they do not radically reverse course. Maybe, just maybe, they will.

In doing so, I hope that they take to heart an observation made by George Weigel in The End of the Bernardin Era: “The late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus used to say that, when the Church is not obliged to speak, the Church is obliged not to speak; that is, when the issue at hand does not touch a fundamental moral truth that the Church is obliged to articulate vigorously in the public-policy debate, the Church’s pastors ought to leave the prudential application of principle to the laity who, according to Vatican II, are the principal evangelizers of culture, politics, and the economy. The USCCB’s habit of trying to articulate a Catholic response to a very broad range of public-policy issues undercuts this responsibility of the laity; it also tends to flatten out the bishops’ witness so that all issues become equal, which they manifestly are not.”

I am struck by one fact. I wrote my earlier post in the hope that it might help educate Catholic laymen and clergymen with regard to their duty. It seemed an opportune time to point to the obvious – that the teaching articulated by Cardinal Bernardin and adopted by the American Church was not just pretentious and false but that, by undermining limited government, it posed a danger to religious liberty. Since writing it – especially since Rush Limbaugh read it out on his show on Monday – I have received innumerable congratulatory e-mails and telephone calls from priests, seminarians, and laymen from every corner of the land. Only one individual mistook my criticism of the hierarchy for an attack on the Church itself.

The proper response to criticism of the sort he articulated is the one which Winston Churchill voiced when he rose in Parliament on 5 October 1938 to criticize a Prime Minister drawn from his own party:

Our loyal, brave people… should know the truth. They should know that there has been a gross neglect and deficiency in our defences; they should know that we have sustained a defeat without a war, the consequences of which will travel far with us along our road… and do not suppose that this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of the bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year, unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in olden time.

As one recent correspondent said to me in the course of reminding me of this passage, “The enemy of freedom is not always foreign and external.”

Obamacare delenda est!

ADDENDUM: If you find this of interest, you may wish to consult its sequel: More Than a Touch of Malice.

If you want to know why I added the word “Renewed” to the title of my original post, let me suggest that you read my recent post Prelates and Pederasts. The problem I identified still exists … first and foremost in Rome.

A Lavender Mafia Within the Vatican? A Post from 2013 Reposted

 

What follows is a post first put up on 6 March 2013. I repost it now because of its pertinence to the current crisis in the Roman Catholic Church. At least some of the links are still functional. I particularly recommend your reading the letters of Father Gerald Fitzgerald.

Some weeks after Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation, the Italian press went wild, reporting that his decision had been prompted by his receipt of a report issued by a commission of three Cardinals whom he had asked to investigate the so-called Vatileaks affair. That report, we were told, revealed the existence within the Curia of a network of sexually active homosexual prelates who were being blackmailed by outsiders.That such a commission was appointed and that it issued a report is true. The members were Julián Herranz of Spain, Salvatore De Giorgi of Italy, and Jozef Tomko, from Slovakia. Initially, the Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi refused to comment on the contents of the report. Later, however, he denied that the press account was correct.Soon thereafter, The Observer in Britain reported that three serving priests and a former priest had lodged a formal complaint with the Papal Nuncio in Britain, charging Keith O’Brien, Cardinal-Archbishop of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and Primate of the Catholic Church in Scotland, with having tried, in some cases successfully, to take advantage of them sexually some 30 years ago when he was spiritual director in a seminary and after he became a bishop. It was later revealed that last year another priest had made similar allegations about O’Brien’s conduct 11 years before. Soon after these revelations, O’Brien was forced to resign from his post. At first, he denied the truth of the charges. Later, he confessed his guilt.If Cardinal O’Brien’s misconduct were an isolated case, I would be inclined to believe Father Lombardi’s dismissal of the reports in the Italian press. A close friend who knows the Vatican very well indeed suspects that the focus of the report issued by the three Cardinals is graft. “In Italy,” as he put it, “theft is a way of life.”

It would not, however, be surprising were there blackmail involved as well. It is not as if there have not, in recent years, been examples of homoerotically inclined prelates in the United States being blackmailed by former sexual partners, and it is a reasonable guess that there has been a lot more of this sort of thing going on than we know even now. The world of the Catholic clergy is a secretive world governed by a code of silence. Cardinal O’Brien’s misconduct escaped public notice for more than thirty years.

Sometime in the 1980s, I became aware that some of the Catholic seminaries in this country were little better than brothels. I read no public reports, but I heard stories. The diocesan seminary at Catholic University in Washington, DC was notorious. In the late 1990s, I had a conversation with a leading Catholic layman that brought home to me how deep the rot went. He knew a priest who, upon being named to head a diocesan seminary, discovered that chastity was not there the norm. He made an appointment to see the Bishop of the diocese for the purpose of informing him of the problem, and he asked permission to weed out those who were sexually active. “If we do not do this now,” he reportedly said, “there will be terrible trouble when these young men are unleashed on the diocese.” The Bishop replied that he wanted nothing done. “I want numbers,” he said, and numbers he got. Not long after I had this conversation, this particular Bishop became an Archbishop, and soon thereafter he was named a Cardinal. The diocese he left behind has been a cesspool ever since.

It is against this background that the scandals of recent years become explicable. Much has been written about pedophile priests. But the truth is that, in the priesthood, genuine pedophiles were and are exceedingly rare. As the report commissioned by the American hierarchy some years back revealed, the vast majority of the victims were not pre-pubescent children. They were adolescent boys. Pedophilia was not a plague; pederasty of the sort common in classical Greece was. The seminaries were churning out a generation of sexually active, homoerotically inclined priests. Like many a heterosexual, some of these men found young people in the bloom of youth highly attractive. And the bishops – many of whom had strayed in their younger days – did not regard with great horror what these priests were doing.

I have long thought that the sexual revolution of the late 1960s had engendered a crisis within the Roman Catholic clergy. There had always been priests who were homoerotically inclined. In times past, the priesthood offered men who were not at all attracted to women a place of respect and responsibility within the community. As long as chastity was the norm, I reasoned, it was relatively easy for them to observe the vow of celibacy. Once, however, chastity ceased to be the norm in the larger society, their situation became more difficult.

I still suspect that there is a lot to this analysis. But I recently became aware that the problem was serious long before the late 1960s. In Jemez Springs, New Mexico, there once existed a Monastery of the Servants of the Paraclete named Via Coeli. From 1947 to 1968, Father Gerald Fitzgerald, who had founded the order, was the order’s Father General. In those days, the Catholic hierarchy sent wayward priests to this monastery for treatment. Most of these men had drinking problems, but, even then, there were priests who abused children and adolescents, and, over time, Father Fitzgerald came to believe that these men were incurable and that they should never be allowed to get near children again.

There is online a dossier including some of the letters that Father Fitzgerald wrote in the 1950s and 1960s. If you want to come to grips with what has happened in recent years, you should read them – all of them. On 12 September 1952, for example, Father Fitzgerald writes to the Bishop of Reno, Nevada about one such priest:

His record here was one of conformity to the rule and cooperation yet with no marked indication of fervor or penitential zeal. We find it quite common, almost universal with the handful of men we have seen in the last five years who have been under similar charges – we find it universal that they seem to be lacking in appreciation of the serious situation. As a class they expect to bound back like tennis balls on to the court of priestly activity. I myself would be inclined to favor laicization for any priest, upon objective evidence, for tampering with the virtue of the young. My argument being, from this point onward the charity to the Mystical Body should take precedence over charity to the individual and when a man has so far fallen away from the purpose of the priesthood the very best that should be offered is his Mass in the seclusion of a monastery. Moreover, in practice, real conversions will be found to be extremely rare. Many bishops believe men are never free from the approximate danger once they have begun. Hence leaving them on duty or wandering from diocese to diocese is contributing to scandal or at least to the approximate danger of scandal.

Five years later, he wrote to an Archbishop in a similar vein, describing those “who have seduced or attempted to seduce little boys or girls” as “devils” and “a class of rattlesnake,” and he suggested that they be confined to an isolated island. One letter, written on 10 September 1964, shows that Father Fitzgerald had expressed these concerns directly to Pope Paul VI in an audience.

In that same letter, Father Fitzgerald alludes to another difficulty he has encountered that bears on the reports in the Italian press:

When I was ordained forty-three years ago, homosexuality was a practically unknown rarity. Today, it is – in the wake of World War II – rampant among men. And whereas seventeen years ago, eight out of ten problems here would represent the alcoholic, now in the last year or so our admission ratio would be approximately 5-2-3: five being alcoholics; two would be what we call “heart cases” (natural affection towards women); and three representing aberrations involving homosexuality. More alarming still is that among these of the 3 out of 10 class 2 out of 3 have been young priests.I mention this because it would seem in America at least this type of problem is more devastating to the good standing of the priesthood than anything else. It is very infectious and the prognosis for recovery extremely unfavorable. The majority of psychiatrists, physicians, and experienced priests are not sanguine of permanent recovery. Therefore, it would seem that more careful screening – especially the study of family background and personal motivation – is definitely in order.

Bishop, do not quote me because this is given you in strictest confidence, but we know of several seminaries that have been deeply infected and this of course leads to a wide infection. Therefore there should be a very strict discipline of dismissal and a very clear and printed teaching in the moral theology course that mutual masturbation is a mortal sin. Priests develop a blind spot on this matter which in my opinion involves very likely the fixation of impenitence. Seldom will you find these men evidencing consciousness of the gravity of what they have done. And this apparently is represented in the strange attitude of Bishops who place these men after reactivation in assignments where they are most exposed to a recurrence of a vicious habit which the majority of experts would consider practically incurable.

Decades before I became aware of what was happening in some of the seminaries, the problem had already appeared. It did not emerge as a response to the sexual revolution. It was already there, and the advice offered by Father Fitzgerald, who was removed from his post in 1968, was not taken.

The scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church in the United States and elsewhere have deep roots. Things no doubt got worse in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. But they have been bad for more than half a century. Scotland’s Cardinal O’Brien may not be typical, but his is by no means an isolated case. I would not be surprised were we to discover that the reports in the Italian press are more accurate than the Vatican spokesman has led us to believe. The next Pope will have a great deal of housecleaning to do.

As we now know, that housecleaning did not take place. Instead, as I detailed in a recent post entitled Prelates and Pederasts, Pope Francis took as his principal advisers, especially with regard to the selection of bishops and cardinals, the very men who he should have removed from positions of influence.

US College Rankings: Where Is Hillsdale?

 

Once a year, The Wall Street Journal publishes an extended report ranking US Colleges, and this that newspaper did this morning, ranking some 500 institutions. Missing from the list, however — this year, last year, and every other year in which WSJ has printed its report — is Hillsdale College.

The reason is simple. Hillsdale does not take federal money because that money comes with strings attached. Schools that do take that money are highly regulated by the federal government, and we value our independence. The Wall Street Journal and its partner in producing the report they publish annually, the Times Higher Education Supplement, do not bother to do much reporting. They get their data from the US Department of Education, which collects the pertinent information from the schools that receive federal funds, and they do not go to the trouble of securing comparable data from the handful of schools that do not take federal money. And thought this omission has been drawn to the attention of the editors of The Wall Street Journal, they have neither corrected their error nor included in their report an acknowledgement that their rankings are for this reason incomplete.

I cannot myself tell you where we would rank because I do not know how these folks produce their conclusions. But I can say that the average ACT score for the freshman who arrived a couple of weeks ago was 30.16, which puts them in the 95th percentile. I can also tell you that our retention rate is exceptionally high and that, in an environment in which 11.2 million young (and old) women and only 8.7 million young (and old) men attend college, our freshman class is 55 percent male. I can add that the average high-school GPA of our entering freshman is 3.89. This data puts us well ahead of Michigan State University, a slight bit ahead of the University of Wisconsin, and close to being equal to the University of Michigan.

In recent years, we have had three graduates clerk for the US Supreme Court and three play as starters in the National Football League.

Are we competitive with Harvard and Yale? Not yet, but we do steal the occasional applicant away from them, and every time that they raise their tuition or mistreat a young man foolish enough to matriculate there we gain ground.

So, I say to the Presidents of Yale and Harvard, “Keep up the good work!” And to the editors of The Wall Street Journal, I must add, “Why don’t you do the requisite work?”

Prelates and Pederasts

 

Sixteen years ago, reporters at The Boston Globe conducted an extensive investigation of the sexual abuse of minors by priests in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston. Not long thereafter, reporters elsewhere detailed similar abuse in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and the like. The word used in the press to describe what had been going on was pedophilia, which is a misnomer deliberately employed to cover up what journalists then considered and still consider now an inconvenient aspect of the truth.

As a report commissioned by the National Review Board of the American Catholic bishops and issued in 2004 revealed, something like 81 percent of the victims were boys, and very few of them were, in the strictest sense, children. They were nearly all what we euphemistically call young adults. They were male adolescents on the younger side – at the age when boys as they mature can briefly be downright pretty.

What was involved was what its advocates call man-boy love: a sexual relationship between a grown man who serves as a mentor and a boy who is under his care or simply admires or stand in awe of him. The ancient Greeks, who practiced this systematically in the classical period, called this phenomenon pederasty, and I wrote extensively about it 26 years ago in the first part of my hardback book Republics Ancient and Modern (the pertinent chapter can be found in the first volume of the paperback edition).

In the course of these investigations, a number of other things came to light. First, a priest named Gerald Fitzgerald – who had in 1947 in New Mexico founded a small religious order named Congregation of the Servants of the Paraclete to counsel priests who had difficulty with alcoholism, substance abuse, celibacy, and the like – had for decades been trying to alert the American bishops and officials in the Vatican (including Pope Paul VI) to the fact that priestly pederasty (which, he said, was unheard of before World War II) was within the American Catholic Church a growing problem. And he had persistently tried to persuade the hierarchy to forbid the perpetrators’ supervision of boys and to laicize them – all to no avail.

It also turned out that in 1984, when a scandal of this sort broke out in the diocese of Lafayette, LA, a Dominican priest named Thomas P. O’Doyle — who was a canon lawyer working for the Papal Nuncio in Washington and had seen numerous reports of a similar kind cross his desk – had joined with a Louisiana lawyer named F. Ray Mouton, Jr., and another priest, a psychiatrist named Michael Peterson, who directed a hospital for troubled priests and knew a great deal, to conduct an extensive investigation of clerical misconduct along these lines throughout the United States. The report that these three men produced was sent to every bishop in the country in May 1985, and then it was ignored – and bishop after bishop continued the long-standing practice of covering up the scandals that arose, of paying off the victims and eliciting from them a non-disclosure agreement, and of transferring the perpetrators from one parish to another and even from one diocese to another.

Not long after the scandal first broke and the National Review Board issued its 2004 report, I was a guest at a dinner hosted by a Catholic friend, as was a highly intelligent, young local priest who, everyone knew, would someday become a bishop. By then it was evident to anyone who bothered to read the report that pederasty, not pedophilia, was the problem, and I had long known that there were seminaries in the United States that were essentially cathouses in which all of the cats were male.

When talk turned to the clerical scandal, I suggested that the fatal decision made by the American bishops in 1985 to continue the practice of covering everything up must have come from Rome. If, I argued, every diocese followed the same procedures, the bishops must have received guidance from the center. Could it then be the case, I asked, that this is not a peculiarly American problem; that this is going on elsewhere, all over the world; that Rome is the epicenter; and that the Papal nuncio in Washington or his superiors at the Vatican are complicit? Could it be the case that the colleges in Rome, established for the education of especially promising seminarians from all over the world, were in effect gay bordellos and that promotion into the hierarchy for many a young priest came at a price?

My host knew what I was talking about. He had once been a Jesuit novice, and he had been expelled from the Jesuits by the provincial for complaining about the sexual misconduct going on in the novitiate all around him. What I remember most vividly, however, was the silence of the young priest at the dinner table. He had been talkative. Now he said not a word. He was even then a handsome young man, and he had studied at the North American College at a time when he was no doubt even more striking. As we left, I remember saying to my wife, “He knows more than he is willing to divulge.”

I do not mean to say that he was complicit. I doubt that very much. I do mean to suggest that he had received unwanted attention and that he knew that, if he talked about it, it would put a stop to his clerical career.

Later, of course, it became evident that my suspicions with regard to Rome were justified. In the intervening years, there have been scandals identical to the American scandal in Canada, Australia, Belgium, Bavaria, Ireland, Honduras, Chile, and elsewhere. And, a few years ago, we learned that a host of high-level figures in the Curia were being blackmailed by their male lovers. I am told that Pope Benedict, who had already by that time contracted Parkinson’s Disease, resigned his office in this connection because he knew that there needed to be a purge and he feared that he did not have the physical stamina to carry it out himself. In his memoirs, Pope Benedict touches on the “gay lobby” and confesses to a lack of resoluteness on his own part. As everyone understood at the time, the task of cleaning house was to be left to his successor.

In the interim between Pope Benedict’s papacy and that of his successor, we received another indication of the depth of the problem. In the newspapers of Scotland, we learned that Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien, a cardinal and archbishop who was the Primate of Scotland, had been buggering seminarians and young priests for years and that nothing had been done in response to the complaints that they had submitted to the Papal Nuncio. It was only when they went public in 2013 that the Vatican acted.

Unfortunately, however, Benedict’s successor was Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina – the man who calls himself Pope Francis. As a Belgian cardinal named Gottfried Daneels – who had been removed as an archbishop because he had covered up pederasty on the part of another Belgian cardinal and had come out in support of contraception, divorce, gay marriage, euthanasia, and abortion – revealed in his memoirs, Bergoglio’s candidacy was promoted by the St. Gallen Group, a part of what Catholics call “the Lavender Mafia.” This disgraced figure stood on the balcony with Bergoglio after he was elected Pope; he was chosen to say the prayer at the new Pope’s inauguration; and there was joy in the ranks of those inclined to break the vow of celibacy.

If you want to get a sense of what such people thought, I suggest that you read “The Vatican’s Secret Life,” an article that appeared in Vanity Fair in December 2013. It is an eye-opener. Its author, Michael Joseph Gross, is not scandalized by what he found. He celebrates it; and, tellingly, he never once mentions, even under the guise of pedophilia, the propensity of prominent priests to indulge in pederasty. As Gross observes,

At the Vatican, a significant number of gay prelates and other gay clerics are in positions of great authority. They may not act as a collective but are aware of one another’s existence. And they inhabit a secretive netherworld, because homosexuality is officially condemned. Though the number of gay priests in general, and specifically among the Curia in Rome, is unknown, the proportion is much higher than in the general population. Between 20 and 60 percent of all Catholic priests are gay, according to one estimate cited by Donald B. Cozzens in his well-regarded The Changing Face of the Priesthood. For gay clerics at the Vatican, one fundamental condition of their power, and of their priesthood, is silence, at least in public, about who they really are.

Clerics inhabit this silence in a variety of ways. A few keep their sexuality entirely private and adhere to the vow of celibacy. Many others quietly let themselves be known as gay to a limited degree, to some colleagues, or to some laypeople, or both; sometimes they remain celibate and sometimes they do not. A third way, perhaps the least common but certainly the most visible, involves living a double life. Occasionally such clerics are unmasked, usually by stories in the Italian press. In 2010, for the better part of a month, one straight journalist pretended to be the boyfriend of a gay man who acted as a “honeypot” and entrapped actual gay priests in various sexual situations. (The cardinal vicar of Rome was given the task of investigating. The priests’ fates are unknown.)

There are at least a few gay cardinals, including one whose long-term partner is a well-known minister in a Protestant denomination. There is the notorious monsignor nicknamed “Jessica,” who likes to visit a pontifical university and pass out his business card to 25-year-old novices. (Among the monsignor’s pickup lines: “Do you want to see the bed of John XXIII?”) There’s the supposedly straight man who has a secret life as a gay prostitute in Rome and posts photographs online of the innermost corridors of the Vatican. Whether he received this privileged access from some friend or family member, or from a client, is impossible to say; to see a known rent boy in black leather on a private Vatican balcony does raise an eyebrow.

I recommend that you read the whole article. The author interviewed a great many clerics in Rome, and he makes it clear that they were delighted with the choice of Bergoglio and with his selection of advisers.

They had reason to be delighted. Since his election, Pope Francis has done everything within his power to soften and subvert the Church’s teaching concerning human sexuality. He put the Lavender Mafia in charge of the two Synods on the Family held in 2014 and 2015. They tried to push through their agenda; and, when the assembled bishops balked, they got a tongue-lashing from the Pope, and he inserted in the final report without comment two paragraphs that had not received the requisite two-thirds vote. All of this – including the machinations of the St. Gallen Group and the role played by Cardinal Daneels – is laid out in detail by an English Catholic, who was in Rome during the early year of this papacy, and who writes under the pseudonym Marcantonio Colonna. The title is The Dictator Pope: The Inside Story of the Francis Papacy.

In the last few weeks, we have received further evidence of the power of the prelate-pederasts. A grand jury convened in Pennsylvania has revealed that Donald Wuerl, while bishop of Pittsburgh, covered up a priest-run child-porn ring and a host of other abuses cases involving something on the order of 100 priests, using the age-old trick of pay-offs and non-disclosure agreements. But this did not stop him from being named Archbishop of Washington DC and of being made a Cardinal – which is to say, a Prince of the Church. He was not even high on the list of possible nominees submitted by the Papal Nuncio. Someone powerful in the Vatican wanted him promoted, and Pope Francis responded to the news of his guilt not by ordering an investigation into Wuerl’s promotion, but with a dodge – by attributing collective guilty to us all.

This past weekend, the chickens finally came home to roost. We had already learned of the predatory conduct of Theodore McCarrick, Wuerl’s predecessor as Cardinal-Archbishop of Washington. The evidence showed that he had buggered altar boys and seminarians while auxiliary bishop in New York, bishop of Metuchen in New Jersey, and Archbishop of Newark. Formal complaints had been lodged against him as the 1990s and continued to be lodged in later years, but they were ignored, and he was nonetheless promoted. On Saturday night, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who was the Papal Nuncio in Washington from 2011 to 2016, released an eleven-page testament, revealing that Pope Benedict had learned of McCarrick’s conduct, that he had acted against the man in 2009 or 2010 by silencing him, prohibiting him from travel, and forbidding him to say mass in public; that in 2013 he had himself personally warned Pope Francis against McCarrick, spelling out in detail the man’s misdeeds; that Francis had reversed the restrictions imposed on McCarrick by Benedict; that he had taken him as his chief American advisor; and that Francis had ignored the advice of the Papal Nuncio and accepted that of McCarrick in choosing archbishops and bishops for the United States – including Blaise Cupich, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago, and Joseph Tobin, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Newark. Viganò also did something on Saturday night that, as far as I know, no high-ranking prelate has done in more than six hundred years. He called on the Pope to resign.

In the meantime, Monsignor Jean-Francois Lantheaume, former first counsellor at the apostolic nunciature in Washington, DC has emerged to confirm that Viganò‘s predecessor had been instructed to confine McCarrick by Pope Benedict, that he had himself witnessed the confrontation with McCarrick, and that everything else that Viganò himself had said was true. To this, we must add that Viganò named names in the Vatican, specifying which high officials had obstructed the investigation into McCarrick’s conduct.

As all of this suggests, we are now at a turning point. The Lavender Mafia controls the Papacy and the Vatican overall, and Pope Francis is packing the College of Cardinals, who will elect the next Pope, with sympathizers. Pope Francis and his minions have now been exposed, named, and shamed; and there will be a civil war within the Roman Catholic Church. Either Francis leaves and his supporters and clients are purged. Or the Church is conceded to those who for decades have sheltered and promoted the pederasts and those who regard their abuse of minors as a matter indifferent. It is time that those bishops, archbishops, and cardinals who are innocent of such conduct stand up and force a house-cleaning. In the meantime, the laity should speak up loud and clear.

Do the Democrats Want a Civil War? We Need to Know

 

As you may have noticed, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) is at it again. This time, she has picked up on the fact that some of the leftist thugs in our midst have taken to harassing members of the Trump administration, refusing to serve them when they sit down at an eatery, driving them from restaurants, and making a racket outside their homes.

Here is what she said: “If you see anybody from that Cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”

To their credit, Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have distanced themselves from Congresswoman Waters, and Paul Ryan has quite properly called on her to apologize for her remarks — which, of course, she has not done.

Let me suggest that it is time for the Republicans in the House of Representatives to show a little backbone (or pretend that they have one) and introduce a motion censuring Maxine Waters for her remarks.

There will be midterm elections in November. It is the perfect time to separate the sheep from the goats and force the Democrats in the House of Representatives to take a stand against the species of incivility advocated by Maxine Waters … or stand in her defense. The people of this country have a right to know where the Democrats stand.

Was It “the Word” That Was Made Flesh — Or Something Else?

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This sentence, the first verse in the Gospel of St. John, should be familiar, and the same can be said for this excerpt from that Gospel’s 14th verse, alluding to the birth and life of Christ: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.”

Less well known, however, is the fact that these verses in The King James Bible constitute a mistranslation of the original. The ultimate source of this error was St. Jerome — who chose the Latin word Verbum as a translation for the Greek word Lógos, substituting a term with an exceedingly narrow and precise meaning for a term much broader in its implications.

In Greek, lógos means, first and foremost, rational speech. Herodotus employs it to refer to the various “accounts” he wrote up concerning the Medes, the Egyptians, the Scythians, and the like. Others, such as Plato’s Socrates, use it to describe an “argument” being advanced. In his Politics, when he asserts that man is by nature a political animal, Aristotle points to the human capacity for lógos. Other animals possess phonḗ — a capacity to express pain or pleasure by way of making “noise.” But humans alone can make arguments to one another in public deliberation concerning the advantageous, the just, and the good. It is this, the peripatetic explained, that distinguishes them from the other animals — and in making this claim, as I argue in the video immediately below, he articulated the fundamental principle underpinning Greek civilization: the presumption that human beings have a capacity for self-government rooted in their capacity for rational collective deliberation.

Thus, when St. John equated God with Lógos, he was making an extraordinary claim. Greek civilization was built, initially, on the presumption that human beings could cope with political reality via the collective exercise of their capacity for lógos. The practices associated with this supposition gave rise to philosophy when the pre-Socratic philosophers transferred this presumption from the sphere of human action to the study of the natural world.

In the process, these embraced, so Aristotle tells us, a species of monotheism. Nowhere is the character of this monotheism made as clear as it is in the writing of the pre-Socratic Xenophanes of Colophon:

  • One god there is, greatest among gods and men, in no way like mortal creatures either in bodily form or in the thought of his mind.
  • The whole of him sees, the whole of him thinks, the whole of him hears.
  • He stays motionless in the same place; it is not fitting that he should move about now this way, now that.
  • But effortlessly he wields everything with the thought of his mind.
  • But mortal men imagine that the gods are begotten, and that they have human dress and speech and shape.
  • If oxen or horses had hands to draw with and to make works of art as men do, then horse would draw the forms of gods like horses, oxen like oxen, and they would make their gods’ bodies similar to the bodily shape that they themselves each had.
  • The Ethiopians say their gods are snub-nosed and black-skinned, the Thracians that they are blue-eyed and red-headed.
  • Homer and Hesiod have attributed to the gods everything which brings shame and reproach among men: theft, adultery, and fraud.

Such is the god of the philosophers. He is lógos embodied — and he is in his universality like and in other ways quite unlike the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

As I argue in the video below, when St. John in the first chapter of his Gospel identified God with Lógos and described Jesus Christ as “the Lógos made Flesh,” he effected a great revolution in which the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob came to be identified with the god of the philosophers and reason and revelation became allies. It was this revolution that laid a foundation for the marriage of Athens and Jerusalem that produced the Christian Rome, and it was this revolution which rendered theology (lógos applied to théos) not only possible but necessary.

At Christmastide, when we celebrate the anniversary of the day when “the Lógos was made flesh and came to dwell among us,” we might want to contemplate the significance of this event.

Our Imperial Elite Unmasked

 

When Pravda-on-the-Hudson and Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker broke the Harvey Weinstein story, they seem to have had Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in their sights, as I suggested in an earlier post. Pravda certainly sought a purgation. Its editors bluntly demanded that the two Democratic standard-bearers repudiate one of their most generous donors; and this, with evident reluctance, they did.

I doubt, however, very much whether anyone involved in breaking this story thought that theirs was the first salvo in what would turn into an exposé of the prattling class as a whole – including not only our entertainment elite but also our media and political elite. But this is what happened – and there is hardly a single left-liberal institution that has thus far emerged unscathed. A venerable Congressman has been driven from office. It looks as if a celebrity Senator will soon follow suit, and leading figures at NBC, CBS, NPR, and Pravda itself have been suspended or given the boot.

There is something especially delicious about this particular scandal. For everyone thus far fingered has long posed as a defender of women’s rights; and, though Pravda and Ronan Farrow carefully avoided any reference back to the conduct of William Jefferson Clinton, it was inevitable that the subject come up. After all, there was nothing that Weinstein is now accused of having done that his old pal had not been plausibly accused of having done on a similar scale decades ago.

It was left to Caitlin Flanagan to throw the cat among the pigeons. We should not, she wrote in The Atlantic,

forget the sex crimes of which the younger, stronger Bill Clinton was very credibly accused in the 1990s. Juanita Broaddrick reported that when she was a volunteer on one of his gubernatorial campaigns, she had arranged to meet him in a hotel coffee shop. At the last minute, he had changed the location to her room in the hotel, where she says he very violently raped her. She said that she fought against Clinton throughout a rape that left her bloodied. At a different Arkansas hotel, he caught sight of a minor state employee named Paula Jones, and, Jones said, he sent a couple of state troopers to invite her to his suite, where he exposed his penis to her and told her to kiss it. Kathleen Willey said that she met him in the Oval Office for personal and professional advice and that he groped her, rubbed his erect penis on her, and pushed her hand to his crotch.

It was a pattern of behavior; it included an alleged violent assault; the women involved had far more credible evidence than many of the most notorious accusations that have come to light in the past five weeks. But Clinton was not left to the swift and pitiless justice that today’s accused men have experienced. Rather, he was rescued by a surprising force: machine feminism. The movement had by then ossified into a partisan operation, and it was willing—eager—to let this friend of the sisterhood enjoy a little droit de seigneur.

Then, Flanagan did the unthinkable. She attacked feminism’s uncrowned queen, alluding to what she called “the notorious 1998 New York Times op-ed by Gloria Steinem” and suggesting that it “must surely stand as one of the most regretted public actions of her life.”

It slut-shamed, victim-blamed, and age-shamed; it urged compassion for and gratitude to the man the women accused. Moreover, . . . it characterized contemporary feminism as a weaponized auxiliary of the Democratic Party.

And Flanagan did not hesitate to draw the logical conclusion: “The widespread liberal response to the sex-crime accusations against Bill Clinton found their natural consequence 20 years later in the behavior of Harvey Weinstein: Stay loudly and publicly and extravagantly on the side of signal leftist causes and you can do what you want in the privacy of your offices and hotel rooms.”

It is high time, she argued, that the Democratic Party come to a “reckoning” with regard to the way it protected Bill Clinton: “The party needs to come to terms with the fact that it was so enraptured by their brilliant, Big Dog president and his stunning string of progressive accomplishments that it abandoned some of its central principles.”

In the aftermath, the left-liberal journalistic intelligentsia picked up the theme and acknowledged that Clinton had raped Juanita Broaddrick, and this caused Flanagan to re-enter the fray and push the envelope further. “I believe Juanita” doesn’t just mean that you’re generally in favor of believing women when they report sex crimes,” she wrote. “It means you believe that for eight years our country was in the hands of a violent rapist.” But that, she thought, was not the end of it.

Liberals seem almost giddy with relief, admitting what they believe—which is how it always feels when you finally decide that you’re going to say what you really think and to hell with the consequences. The truth does set you free, but it usually comes at a price, which is why it will probably take another 20 years to open The New York Times and read an editorial called “Hillary Knew.”

“How,” Flanagan asks, “could she not have known?  She’s a hugely intelligent woman, a visionary, and a political street fighter.”

[S]he must have looked at the facts about Juanita Broaddrick and decided to put them in the same locked box where she kept the truth of Bill’s consensual affairs. As a wife, she had every right to do that. But as a Democratic candidate for president—one whose historic campaign was largely centered on the glass ceiling and the rise of women—she had a Grand Canyon–size vulnerability, as she learned a year before the general election when she blithely tweeted out this corker: “Every survivor of sexual assault deserves to be heard, believed, and supported.”

That’s our Hillary—and that’s the woman even some of her staunchest supporters have been gritting their teeth about for decades. . . .  Hillary had put the many women who’d credibly accused her husband of sexual misconduct into the forgetting hole.”

I quote Caitlin Flanagan at inordinate length for a reason. What she says about Hillary Clinton can be applied to virtually every woman (and man) who has been at work in the last couple of decades within our imperial liberal elite – whether it be in Hollywood, in journalism, or on the Hill.

Meryl Streep, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and the other members of the sisterhood have turned their backs on Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, Charlie Rose, John Conyers, Al Franken, Glenn Thrush, Matt Lauer, and the like. They say that they didn’t know or that, at most, they had heard a rumor or two. They are for the most part lying. Nearly all of them knew, as did Gloria Steinem and the liberals who defended Bill Clinton. The scale and the scope of these men’s misconduct were too large to have been anything other than an open secret.

Moreover, those who knew were all complicit. Meryl Streep is a case in point. She did not give a damn about the antics of Harvey Weinstein. She was a public defender of Roman Polanski, whose taste as a rapist ran to underage girls. He was, after all, an artiste – a man beyond good and evil.

If you doubt my claim that nearly everyone in our imperial elite was complicit, read Fox News’ report regarding the Friars Club dinner given in honor of Matt Lauer nine years ago. Everyone who was anyone in New York media circles was there, and the roast to which Lauer was subjected was a celebration of his . . . er . . . “accomplishments” with the women with whom he came into contact while doing his job as a journalist. I would quote snatches of what they said in their speeches were they not too graphic to pass the Ricochet Code of Conduct. In any case, you can read it for yourself, and you can read the account published in The Village Voice back in 2008 on which it was based.

When you next see any one of these people engaged in moral posturing, pinch yourself and remind yourself that they are all – especially, the politicians – in show business. They would not be where are if they could not persuasively take on a persona entirely foreign to what they really are and thoroughly fool you in the process. It is not an accident that in ancient Greek the word for an actor is hypocritēs. When you next see any of these figures, ask yourself, “Whose misconduct is she covering for now?”

A New Book to Be Read and Treasured

 

Twenty-five years ago, I published a massive tome, 1,200 pages in length, titled Republics Ancient and Modern: Classical Republicanism and the American Revolution. It sold out within 13 months. It was picked up by the History Book Club, then reprinted in 1994 in three paperback volumes; and it is still in print and was recently released on Kindle.

One of the arguments that I advanced in that work was that the chief cause of the American Revolution was regime difference. Put simply, after 1688, England went one direction, and America went another. On our side of the Atlantic, the government was in practice organized in accord with the principles advanced by the Radical Whigs. On the other side of the Atlantic, the government was organized on the basis of an agreement gradually worked out in the wake of the Glorious Revolution between the Tories who had sought James II’s ouster and those of the Whigs who were willing to settle for de facto parliamentary dominion.

For a long time, this did not much matter, and there was a tacit agreement between those dominant in Parliament and the Americans to let sleeping dogs lie. We ran our own affairs; they ran theirs; and we cooperated amicably in a great variety of ways. But, in the wake of the French and Indian War, a generation took power in Great Britain that was intent on reining in the American colonies. In consequence, it became painfully evident that the two parties entertained different notions of the dictates of justice and that we could neither understand nor sympathize with one another’s outlook. We Americans could not accept the absolute supremacy of king-in-parliament, and our cousins across the Atlantic could not accept our claim that the autonomy we had long been allowed was a matter of right and not mere legislative grace. The upshot was bloodshed and a bitter, angry divorce.

In passing, in that work, I also suggested that our own Civil War could be explained in similar terms. In one part of the country, slavery was gradually abolished. In another part, it became hegemonic. What had been in embryo a single political regime based on the principles laid out by a reluctant slaveowner in the Declaration of Independence became two separate political regimes organized on opposed principles. In the interim between 1776 and 1860, the Union was held together by a series of compromises. But, in time, the opposition of the two sides produced a division within the Baptist and Methodist churches, the Whig party, and finally the Democratic party fatal to their unity — and it was no longer possible to find common ground.

At the time that I published Republics Ancient and Modern, I entertained the possibility of writing another massive tome on the origins of the Civil War. But I was drawn into the composition of other volumes focused on the English revolution, early modern political thought, and ancient Greece, and I can now report that someone else has done the job I once contemplated and that he has done a better job than I would have been apt to do.

I have in mind Forrest A. Nabors’ new book From Oligarchy to Republicanism: The Great Task of Reconstruction, which is slated for release on December 26 but is, in fact, being shipped now.

Do not be fooled by the title. The book starts with Reconstruction, but it does not end there. It moves back to examine the Old South, its character, and the reason for secession; and it seeks also to explain the failure of Reconstruction.

Forrest begins with the Reconstruction Congress, studying in detail the deliberations that gave rise to Reconstruction. Then, he asks whether Congress’ analysis of the pre-Civil War South was accurate, and he turns to the evidence. And, finally, he examines the fate of Reconstruction.

I will not give away the plot. I will only say this. In my lifetime, scholars have tended to focus their attention on slavery, on the masters, and on their slaves — and Eugene D. Genovese, who was the godfather of my eldest child, was the ablest of those who did so. Next to no one has paid close attention to the non-slaveholding whites of the South. It is Forrest’s argument that they are the key to the puzzle. I wish Gene were alive to read Forrest’s book. He would be enthralled. It is the only work on the South that I have read in the last half-century that is better than the best of his volumes.

If you want to understand the origins of the Civil War, why the North won, the outcome’s consequences for this country, and race relations over the last 150 years, this book is the place to start. It is a masterpiece, and it is going to have an immense impact.

Two-thirds of all of the books sold in this country every year are sold at this time of year. If you have a loved one who enjoys reading histories, this is the book to send as a gift. Trust me. I just ordered a copy for my father-in-law.

Where Can You Most Easily Contract Venereal Disease?

 

I pose a question that you no doubt do not often ask yourself. But, in case you ever have or ever will, D.C. McCallister is ready, willing, and able to provide the requisite information, and she can tell you where you can go if you want to minimize the likelihood.

To wit, the following states in rank order are the places where venereal disease is most likely to be found: Alaska, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, Arkansas, Delaware, and my native Oklahoma. And here are the states in rank order where you are least likely to encounter such difficulties: Vermont, New Hampshire, West Virginia, Maine, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

Of course, if you are married and you and your spouse both practice fidelity, you can live anywhere without peril. This may explain why there is no overlap at all between the states, also listed in rank order, where the most sexual activity goes on and the states where VD is most common: California, Texas, New York, Oregon, Colorado, Arizona, Washington, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Missouri. As George Bernard Shaw once put it, matrimony combines the maximum of temptation with the maximum of opportunity.

You might want to wrestle with D.C.’s analysis of the reason why certain states are on the first of these three lists. I suggest that you ponder as well the reason why the states on the second list are there. There is a tale to be told about patterns of human conduct, and it has next to nothing to do with class.

Gutting the 401k: The Stupid Party Digs in Its Heels

 

On Sunday, I posted a piece with this title and a slightly different subtitle, observing that the mainstream Republicans seem to have a death wish, drawing attention to the pitiful record of the Republicans in Congress when it came to delivering legislation to the President’s desk, and adding:

And when they come to tax reform, what is their big idea? To cut corporate taxes, which would be a boon, and to make up for the revenue losses that this would entail not by cutting expenditures but by gutting the 401k . The fact that their proposal that tax-free contributions to this retirement-savings vehicle be cut to $2400 a year has Wall Street up in arms bothers me not one whit. It is not the task of the US government to feed the greed of a particular industry.

It is its effect on the ordinary joe that I have in mind. I mean the fella who plays by the rules, works hard, and socks money away for his retirement, using the 401k. If self-reliance is a virtue and if promoting individual self-reliance serves the public good, as it surely does, then the provisions within the tax code providing for the 401k are among that code’s best provisions. From the perspective of macroeconomics, the 401k promotes capital formation. From the perspective of public policy, it reduces dependency. What’s not to like?

Moreover, subverting the 401k is bad politics. If Wall Street is up in arms, think about the fury that legislation of this sort will elicit from the ordinary joe once he feels the pinch. Are the Republicans in Congress so beholden to the Chamber of Commerce that they have forgotten their party’s base? If they gut the 401k, in 2018, they will lose both the House and the Senate in a landslide. Is there no one in the Republican Party’s congressional leadership who has any sense?

When this appeared, I was immediately taken to task by a member who argued that the Republicans had done a lot (though he had to concede they had actually passed next to no legislation). Then, with regard to the 401k, he added:

[C]an you inform us where, exactly, you saw this in print? Please provide the link, because I have only seen it one time, in an AP wire story last week, reprinted in WaPo and their left-leaning brothers. I’ve been looking for it ever since and can’t find it. I think a link to the actual “proposal that tax-free contributions to this retirement-savings vehicle be cut to $2400 a year” would be much appreciated, so I can be as outraged as you. I will write a letter to Cruz and Cornyn (I’m from Texas) and to Trump and Pence, once I have the proof in hand.

If you are only going to quote the AP story, I think a retraction would be nice.

This individual’s attention was then called to a similar piece in The Wall Street Journal, reporting, “Lobbyists and others in the retirement and financial services industries who have spoken to congressional staff and committee members say lawmakers are looking at proposals that would allow 401(k) participants to contribute significantly less than what is currently allowed in a traditional tax-deferred 401(k). An often mentioned amount is $2,400 a year. It isn’t clear whether that would only apply to 401(k)s or IRAs or both.”

To this, he responded with incredulity, “[I]n my book, that’s nothing but gossip. We’ve got ‘lobbyists and others’ who have spoken to ‘staff’ and etcetera say lawmakers are ‘looking at proposals’… and ‘An often mentioned amount is $2,400 a year’…”

As you may be aware, there has been a great deal more in the press recently about this supposedly fake news. One could, of course, suppose that — when the President of the United States intervened to indicate that he was opposed to gutting the 401k — he had been fooled by “gossip.” But it makes more sense to suppose that the Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal, not to mention Pravda-on-the-Hudson, had done some real reporting.

As it turns out, some very important Republicans are still intent on gutting the 401k. Yesterday, The Weekly Standard reported that — Donald Trump’s objections notwithstanding — Kevin Brady, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives, was still interested in the project. And there is a similar story on the front page of today’s Wall Street Journal., which once again intimates that the Republicans are thinking about restricting tax-free contributions to $2,400 a year.

I understand the propensity to regard the mainstream media as suspect. When Pravda-in-America in its various guises reports on Donald Trump, there tends to be an admixture of fiction with fact. But it is a mistake to respond reflexively in utter disbelief to news reports suggesting that the Republicans in Congress are on the verge of doing something really stupid. They, alas, do such things quite frequently.

In this case, however, it looks as if Donald Trump (who is more often than not underestimated) will wade in to save the congressional Republicans from themselves.

Gutting the 401k: The Stupid Party Strikes Again

 

There are days when I think that the mainstream Republicans have a death wish. First, after years of promising to repeal and replace Obamacare, when they get a majority in both Houses and a cooperative President, they do nothing. Nothing in that regard, next to nothing in any other regard. A Supreme Court Justice, yes. A handful of Appeals Court judges. Otherwise, niente. It is as if they are happier in the minority than in the majority.

And when they come to tax reform, what is their big idea? To cut corporate taxes, which would be a boon, and to make up for the revenue losses that this would entail not by cutting expenditures but by gutting the 401k . The fact that their proposal that tax-free contributions to this retirement-savings vehicle be cut to $2400 a year has Wall Street up in arms bothers me not one whit. It is not the task of the US government to feed the greed of a particular industry.

It is its effect on the ordinary joe that I have in mind. I mean the fella who plays by the rules, works hard, and socks money away for his retirement, using the 401k. If self-reliance is a virtue and if promoting individual self-reliance serves the public good, as it surely does, then the provisions within the tax code providing for the 401k are among that code’s best provisions. From the perspective of macroeconomics, the 401k promotes capital formation. From the perspective of public policy, it reduces dependency. What’s not to like?

Moreover, subverting the 401k is bad politics. If Wall Street is up in arms, think about the fury that legislation of this sort will elicit from the ordinary joe once he feels the pinch. Are the Republicans in Congress so beholden to the Chamber of Commerce that they have forgotten their party’s base? If they gut the 401k, in 2018, they will lose both the House and the Senate in a landslide. Is there no one in the Republican Party’s congressional leadership who has any sense?

Intimidation in the Academy

 

Thirty-four years ago, I set off for Istanbul and the eastern Mediterranean on a two-year fellowship from the Institute of Current World Affairs (ICWA). Not long after I returned, I joined the outfit’s governing board, and later, for something like five years, I chaired that board.

One summer, ICWA’s executive director, who had been a fellow in Africa in the 1950s, organized a symposium on Africa in which the six or seven surviving former fellows who had done tours of duty on that continent in the 1950s and 1960s returned to discuss the post-independence trajectory of the countries in which they had then resided. All had once been enthusiasts who anticipated African independence and the end of colonialism with eagerness and joy. Not one of them, however, had a good word to say about the years that followed. Attending the conference was a bit like attending a funeral. It was clear that nearly all of the countries of Africa that were then independent had been better off when governed by the powers of Europe.

I mention this event because there is a pertinent piece on the website Legal Insurrection that deserves close attention. Written under the pseudonym “Occam’s Razor” by a graduate student who prefers anonymity to retaliation on the part of his instructors, it has as its focus the fate of an article entitled “The Case for Colonialism” penned by Professor Bruce Gilley of Portland State University, a political scientist who did his Ph.D. at Princeton and has published four important university press books including Tiger on the Brink: Jiang Zemin and China’s New Elite. (1998) and The Right to Rule: How States Win and Lose Legitimacy (2009).

Professor Gilley’s article, which was written with an eye to posing a forbidden question and initiating a debate, was accepted by Third World Quarterly and published this past August. But, instead of giving rise to an informed exchange of views, as Occam’s Razor explains, it provoked indignation and elicited an uproar — resignations from the journal’s editorial board, denunciations, and demands that the article be retracted and that the journal’s editor be dismissed. One petition along these lines — drafted by a dancer who has a master’s degree in project management from the University of Salford in Britain — attracted more than ten thousand signatures. Another, drafted by an associate professor of English and Director of the Critical Race Network at the University of Winnipeg attracted nearly seven thousand supporters. The latter read as follows:

The sentiments expressed in this article reek of colonial disdain for Indigenous peoples and ignore ongoing colonialism in white settler nations. The author ponders “what would likely have happened in a given place absent colonial rule?” (2) with the predictably racist conclusion that peoples and cultures would have remained “primitive,” relying upon an obscene, reductive colonial epithet. The author suggests a return of invasive, forced Western governance based on the purported “consent of the colonized” (2), which is a ludicrous proposal to anyone who has even a remote awareness of the history of national revolutions and independence movements. The author’s argument that colonized peoples “saw the benefits of being governed by a modernised and liberal state” (4) attempts to validate the white man’s burden ideology denounced by scholars such as Gayatri Spivak in her foundational essay, “Can the Subaltern Speak.” Gilley then devolves again into his white supremacist and Eurocentric call for “civility.” The point that “Western countries should be encouraged to hold power in specific governance areas (public finances, say, or criminal justice)” (2) cannot be taken out of the context in which BIPOC around the world are surveilled, disenfranchised, and murdered by colonial and state structures of criminal “justice.” This condescension also infantilizes and dehumanizes BIPOC [Black Indigenous Peoples of Color] by claiming that they are incapable of self-governance. This is especially appalling when the author elsewhere in the article takes the words of multiple decolonial scholars of colour out of context in order to justify his violence against their respective communities and cultures.

We prefer to be brief here and not spend our valuable time doing the work that your peer-reviewers and editorial board members should have done. We will close by asserting that this article is not only offensive but damaging. It is an active attack on BIPOC scholars, thinkers, and people, as well as on the project of decolonization. In our current political context, the lives and safety of BIPOC, refugees, and allies are being threatened by radicalized white supremacist groups. These kinds of ideas are not simply abstract provocations, but have real, material consequences for those who Prof. Gilley seeks to dominate and objectify. Regardless of its intention, and we are already suspicious of those intentions given Professor Gilley’s publication history and fields of inquiry, this article is harmful and poorly executed pseudo-“scholarship” and should be retracted immediately.

In dismay, the mild-mannered author of the offending article initially asked that it be withdrawn (then reportedly came to have misgivings about his decision). To his great credit, the journal’s editor, Shahid Qahir, refused to agree and explained why:

As journal publishers, we operate under the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) Code of Conduct. Among other things, COPE set out guidelines for situations in which a paper might be retracted. Peer-reviewed research articles cannot simply be withdrawn but must have grounds for retraction. These parameters exist in order to keep the scholarly record intact and so academic discourse cannot be shaped by any one opinion. Any request to change the scholarly record needs to follow a fair and transparent process, which is in line with these guidelines. As the publisher it is our role to treat this case as we would any other. On Thursday 21st September, the author contacted the journal’s editorial team, requesting the essay be withdrawn. In subsequent discussion with the author we have explained the above procedure and guidelines that we follow in all cases. As a result, the article remains online. In publishing this essay, it was never our, or the Editor-in-Chief’s, intention to cause offence or to open academic discourse up to ‘click-bait’. We wholeheartedly apologize to those who have seen this as such but, as the publisher, we stand by the peer review process which led to this essay being published and defend the right of our academic journal editors and editorial boards to remain independent in their decision-making. Third World Quarterly is a journal with a long-standing history of balanced debate, and, as with all Routledge journals, it follows industry-wide best practice in its peer-review and publication process. As an organization, Routledge has a history of publishing challenging, peer-reviewed content across the social sciences, opening up new paths for research which shape the fields in which our journals publish. Through nearly 200 years, we have not shied away from publishing what some may see as controversial material, maintaining strict editorial independence on our journals whilst ensuring the articles we publish go through a rigorous peer-review process and follow the polices we put in place as a company. This essay did undergo those processes and so, whilst its contents may make many of us uncomfortable (and indeed upset), we do not see it as our role to censor what is undoubtedly a highly controversial view.

Academics are not, by and large, a courageous lot. The system by which they secure tenure more often than not trains them in servility, and these days the hard left on our major campuses have the whip hand and are generous in applying the lash. Few have as much backbone as Qahid Shahir displayed on this occasion.

I wish that I could end this story here. But, alas, I cannot. Bruce Gilley’s article can no longer be accessed on the website of Third World Quarterly. Instead, at the pertinent link, one finds the following:

This Viewpoint essay has been withdrawn at the request of the academic journal editor, and in agreement with the author of the essay. Following a number of complaints, Taylor & Francis conducted a thorough investigation into the peer review process on this article. Whilst this clearly demonstrated the essay had undergone double-blind peer review, in line with the journal’s editorial policy, the journal editor has subsequently received serious and credible threats of personal violence. These threats are linked to the publication of this essay. As the publisher, we must take this seriously. Taylor & Francis has a strong and supportive duty of care to all our academic editorial teams, and this is why we are withdrawing this essay.

As Peter Wood, the President of the National Association of Scholars, explains at the website Minding the Campus, Gilley and Qadir have had their lives threatened – in the latter case by Indian nationalists. The article has, of course, garnered more readers than any other article ever published by Third World Quarterly, and it still can be found at the link I provided near the top of this post. But, as Wood, adds, there is still a problem.

It lies in the successful deployment of professional opprobrium and actual threats of murder to kill the article. That success was ultimately aimed at ensuring that other scholars who dissent from the contemporary orthodoxy of anti-colonialism will keep their mouths shut. It is further aimed at ensuring that generations of students will see no whisper of dissent from this orthodoxy in the published literature, and hear no hint of it from their instructors.

The desire of the anti-colonialist faction to reach beyond Gilley to intimidate other scholars who might pick up his thread is a backhanded acknowledgment of Gilley’s credibility and the force of his argument.  Numerous scholars in the field are saying things to the effect that recognition of the positive effects of colonialism is long overdue. Such accolades are circulating widely but not—or not yet—openly.  The anti-colonialist faction knows this and is desperate to keep the cork in the bottle.

One way the cork is kept in place is by intimidating college and university authorities. If the dean, provost, and presidents were living up to their responsibilities, they would be opening misconduct investigations in instances where faculty members have sought to intimidate, threaten, or censor views they disagree with.  If academic freedom is to mean anything at all, it has to be enforced. We are in a period where college authorities frequently do nothing in the face of shout-downs of invited speakers and actual campus riots.  Mizzou, Yale, Middlebury, Claremont McKenna, and Evergreen stand out in the public eye as the exemplars of such nonfeasance on the part of college presidents.

The whip of public scorn was enough to convince the presidents of Middlebury, Claremont McKenna, and Evergreen to take token actions against a handful of the student rioters—and no action at all against the faculty members who instigated them. But the general picture remains that college authorities do as little as they possibly can to maintain public order on campus when that order is threatened or violated by progressive activists.

And they do even less when it comes to faculty activists who engage in behavior wholly at odds with academic freedom. More often than not, college presidents offer a false equivalence between the right of a faculty member to say something “controversial” and the spurious “right” of other faculty members to threaten and intimidate that person.  There is no such right.  In the context of higher education, disagreement must be grounded in arguments and evidence, not in menace.

The framing of these issues as matters of “controversy” is itself misleading.  Academic freedom exists to give knowledgeable individuals scope to pursue the truth. It is not a license to pursue controversy for its own sake. Professor Gilley’s arguments about colonialism are presented entirely in the framework of promoting “human flourishing” and respecting “the consent of the colonized.”  His essay says something unexpected—that, in some circumstances, Western colonialism was good and might still be considered a viable choice—but Gilley’s aim is morally serious and ought not to be trivialized as merely seeking after controversy.

Thus the Gilley affair is yet another reminder of the hollowness of the university’s leaders. Confronted with a straightforward example of academic thuggery, they stand perplexed, unwilling to draw a meaningful line anywhere between legitimate expression of ideas and mob rule.

The truth is that, with rare exceptions, the presidents of our colleges and universities closely resemble the owners of the various National Football League franchises. They are women and men without backbone. In the face of intimidation from the left, they cower and make calculations solely concerning their own well-being. Roger Goodell would make a good university president.

Pravda-on-the-Hudson vs. Harvey Weinstein

 

When I first read of the supposed antics of Harvey Weinstein, I found myself in the position once assumed by Captain Louis Renault in Casablanca. Just as he was “shocked … shocked” to discover that there was gambling going on in Rick’s Café Américain, so I was completely taken aback at the suggestion that a Hollywood movie mogul, whom Meryl Streep once celebrated as a god, should have taken advantage of his position to bed a host of would-be starlets. Who, I asked myself, could have imagined such a thing?

The answer to that silly question is, of course, that no one who knows anything about Hollywood should be surprised at all. Producers and directors have been sampling the merchandise for more than a century, and much of the merchandise has been ready, willing, and able. Actors and actresses are not famous for their moral integrity; and, if to get ahead, they have to go ahead, they are generally prepared to do so. It is hard to believe Meryl Streep and Judi Dench when they claim that they were blissfully unaware of what everyone in Hollywood apparently knew. We live in an age of pious posturing.

If the stories now being told are true, Weinstein worked hard at the job. A former waitress at the Tribeca Grill, which is located in the building where Weinstein has his office, reports that he had a standard operating procedure:

When I was working as a waitress, I watched numerous times as a string of young women — some seemingly no older than 21 — entered the restaurant for long, flirty dinners with him, even though he was married with five children.

These women were all the same: vaguely European, always beautiful, stylishly dressed, and totally out of place next to someone like him…

The ritual for his rendezvous was very firm. Champagne, caviar, and an unspoken rule that Weinstein and his date not be disturbed. The pair would sit close, whispering and touching each other suggestively. After dining, Weinstein and a woman would often disappear for a while, exiting the restaurant through a side door.

A fellow server told me: “When a girl arrived waiting for Harvey, we all knew what was in store for her. After a little small talk and a sip of champagne, there would be an ‘office tour’ — usually well past working hours, after which the girl would return looking worse for wear and barely able to finish the glass.”

As her testimony suggests, there is one thing missing from the story as told in Pravda-on-the-Hudson: an acknowledgement that a fair number of the “victims” were complicit in the crime.

But that, too, is unsurprising. None of this is new, and Weinstein is said to have had quite a reputation. The only question worth asking is the one that Weinstein is asking himself: Why is Pravda going after him? And why now?

After all, the editors of that rag had the story in hand 13 years ago. Sharon Waxman worked at Pravda in those days, and she reports that she “nearly gagged” when she “read Jim Rutenberg’s sanctimonious piece on Saturday about the ‘media enablers’ who kept this story from the public for decades. ‘Until now,’ he puffed, ‘no journalistic outfit had been able, or perhaps willing, to nail the details and hit publish.’” For prominent among Weinstein’s “media enablers” were Waxman’s editors 13 years ago at Rutenberg’s paper.

Waxman claims to have had the goods on Weinstein. But, as she puts it, “The story I reported never ran.”

After intense pressure from Weinstein, which included having Matt Damon and Russell Crowe call me directly … and unknown discussions well above my head at the Times, the story was gutted.

I was told at the time that Weinstein had visited the newsroom in person to make his displeasure known. I knew he was a major advertiser in the Times and that he was a powerful person overall.

But I had the story, and this was the Times. Right?

Wrong…. The Times then-culture editor Jon Landman, now an editor-at-large for Bloomberg, thought the story was unimportant, asking me why it mattered.

“He’s not a publicly elected official,” he told me. I explained, to no avail, that a public company would certainly have a problem with a procurer on the payroll for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

What, we must ask, has changed? Did Weinstein declare for public office? Er, no. Has the media become more virtuous? That is the self-serving opinion being floated by the Associated Press, and you can believe it if you wish. Or could there be some other reason?

Weinstein offers us a clue. In his incoherent ramblings at a recent press conference, he displayed real fury, intimating that he had been betrayed, asserting that he had an arrangement with Pravda that the editors of that rag did not honor, and threatening a lawsuit. Then, he added,

I am going to need to channel that anger so I’ve decided that I’m going to give the NRA my full attention. I hope Wayne LaPierre will enjoy his retirement party. I’m going to do it at the same place I had my Bar Mitzvah. I’m making a movie about our President, perhaps we can make it a joint retirement party. One year ago, I began organizing a $5 million foundation to give scholarships to women directors at USC. While this might seem coincidental, it has been in the works for a year. It will be named after my mom and I won’t disappoint her.

I would suggest that Pravda spiked Sharon Waxman’s story because Weinstein was a member in very good standing of the left-liberal political establishment and had a longstanding understanding with the owners and editors of that rag. After all, family-owned newspapers rarely do the dirty to a close friend of the family – which is why Weinstein was shocked when Pravda did him in and why he instinctively tried to shield himself by boasting of his “progressive” commitments. It had worked for Bill Clinton, he presumably thought. Maybe it can work for me.

But, of course, that was then, and this is now – which requires me to rephrase the question I posed: Why is Pravda-on-the-Hudson now out to get one of its own? What has changed?

The answer that I find most persuasive is suggested by the editorial published by Pravda on Friday, which was entitled “Harvey Weinstein’s Money Should Not Buy Democrats’ Silence.” In that piece, the editors mention the extent of Weinstein’s donations to the party, singling out for special attention Barack Obama and Bill and Hillary Clinton. Then, after rehearsing Weinstein’s supposed infractions, the editors add:

Tales of Mr. Weinstein’s offenses were widely shared in Hollywood but not publicly discussed. Despite years of fund-raisers with Hollywood celebrities, those who took his donations may have never heard the stories. But they have now.

A number of members of Congress have pledged to give all contributions they received from Mr. Weinstein to charity, including to organizations that assist victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. There has been no comment from Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton, who condemned Donald Trump for boasting of sexual assault on the “Access Hollywood” tape. These Democratic leaders, admired by many young women and men, should make clear that Mr. Weinstein also deserves condemnation. If such powerful leaders take the money and stay mum, who will speak for women like Mr. Weinstein’s accusers?

There is, I would suggest, more to the attack on Harvey Weinstein than meets the eye. There is a civil war going on today in the Democratic Party, and both Barack Obama and the Clintons are being denounced by the hard left, which may well take over the party. Pravda has now taken sides in that war. To attack Weinstein is to attack the wing of the party that he so long supported. At best, they suppose, he was a “useful idiot,” and he can now be dispensed with.

Anyone who believes the pious pronouncements now found in Pravda concerning the abuse of women should pause for a moment to reconsider. As was acknowledged in the story that newspaper published, there is nothing of substance related therein that was not widely known long, long ago. It has long been in the power of the Timesmen to put an end to the gross conduct they now attribute to Harvey Weinstein. But they did not care, and I doubt that they care much now. They protected him until they had another motive for letting him have it.

Paul A. Rahe

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