Quick question for the room: Would you be interested in hosting me at your college, university, church, or whatever, when my book “How Dante Can Save Your Life” comes out next year?
I ask because my publisher, as all publishers do, is putting together a promotional plan way in advance. We were talking today about places where I might be welcome to speak, and draw a good-size crowd. When I did the Little Way tour, some venues had a lot of people, but others had very few.
I had to send them a list of places they might approach to see if they would be interesting in hosting me. I’m not sure when the book comes out — sometime in 2015; the exact release date hasn’t yet been determined, but you can be sure it will be during the academic year — but I’m asking readers to gauge interest. I sent in a list of colleges and universities where I would like to speak, and where I think I could attract a good audience.
There’s no reason for me to appear only at colleges, of course; it just seems the most natural place for this book and its audience. Anyway, please let me know if you would be willing to have me come to your place and talk about how Dante changed my life, and can do the same for yours. No comments on this thread; please drop me an e-mail at rod -at- amconmag.com – and don’t forget to put contact information so my publisher can contact you when book tour time comes, if they decide to send me your way.
Pope Francis this past September named an American Jesuit, Fr. Robert Geisinger, formerly the head of the Chicago Jesuits, to be the Vatican’s top prosecutor for serious crimes, including child sexual abuse. The Boston Globe reported this weekend that Fr. Geisinger had extensive knowledge for years about a serial sexual abuser within the Jesuit order, a Fr. Donald McGuire (who is now in prison), but went along with the Jesuits’ keeping the abuser in ministry. One of the chief critics of Geisinger is my friend Phil Lawler, editor emeritus of Catholic World Report, who, with his wife Leila, had a personal connection to the McGuire scandal. From the Globe:
Catholic author Lawler said Geisinger’s apparent failure to recommend stronger action in the McGuire case before the proceedings to expel him from the priesthood raises questions about his fitness to prosecute sexually abusive priests.
“What I want to see in this role is someone who will plow through the institutional resistance to prosecution,” he said. “Somebody could make the case that Geisinger was only being a loyal adviser to those in positions of greater responsibility, but the case that you cannot make is that he was aggressive.”
Lawler and his wife, Leila, housed one of McGuire’s victims during the 1999-2000 school year when the victim was an eighth-grader at the Trivium School, a small Catholic school in Lancaster. Both complained about McGuire’s behavior during his visits with the boy, but neither the school nor the Chicago Province took action to stop him.
“The boy was not abused while he was here but he was abused after he left us, after we had communicated our fears to [McGuire’s] Jesuit superiors,’’ Lawler said in a 2012 Globe interview. “That makes me livid.”
Years later, the Lawlers’ boarder notified law enforcement authorities about multiple incidents of abuse by McGuire during trips to other states and other countries, which led to federal charges of traveling in interstate and foreign commerce for the purpose of engaging in a sexual act with a person under 18 — and led to McGuire’s 2008 criminal conviction.
Got that? The fact that McGuire is in jail today is not because of anything the Jesuits — including Fr. Geisinger — did, but because one of the victims called the cops on him.
In 2011, San Francisco Weekly wrote about the McGuire case, including mentioning that Jesuit fathers Joseph Fessio — ironically, the publisher of the magazine Phil Lawler used to edit — and the late John Hardon, heroes to to orthodox Catholics, were part of the conspiracy of silence around McGuire. The Jesuits have known that he had a thing for boys since — are you ready for this? — 1964. Excerpt:
McGuire’s case sounds many of the same themes as other priestly abuse scandals that have convulsed the Catholic church over the past decade. Yet experts say he stands out, both in the harm he did to families and the extremely detailed paper trail left behind. The latter factor can be attributed largely to McGuire’s identity as a Jesuit.
Founded by the soldier turned saint Ignatius of Loyola in 1534, the Society of Jesus, as it is officially called, is organized under a rigid, quasimilitaristic order. Its administrators record their actions and conversations with the diligence of government bureaucrats. As a result, phone conversations, correspondence, and general reflections on McGuire were often preserved in written form, though the Jesuits initially denied they had the information when a criminal investigation of his actions began in 2003.
What those documents portray is a criminal career marked not only by the destruction of many young lives but by a particularly twisted modus operandi. McGuire seemed to revel in the elaborate torment of his victims, perverting the sacraments into vehicles of abuse and turning vulnerable boys against their parents. One of his more notorious practices was to coax admissions of masturbation out of his victims under seal of confession — and then massage their genitals as part of the process of penance.
“If I had to make a Top Five list [of predator priests], Donald McGuire would be number one,” says Patrick Wall, a former Benedictine monk who performs investigations on behalf of abuse victims suing the Catholic Church. “He truly is the Hannibal Lecter of the clerical world. He did more psychological and physical damage to children than anyone else. And what makes it worse is that the Jesuits knew about it, and did nothing.”
I am genuinely shocked to read that even as late as 2011, Father Fessio was defending his behavior in this matter:
Some of McGuire’s colleagues maintain they acted appropriately and according to guidelines accepted in church culture at the time. “As soon as I knew of any allegation, I reported it to the proper [church] authorities. I didn’t report it to the police, but I don’t think I should have reported it to the police,” Fessio says. “I think it’s the proper way to do things. There are a lot of false allegations going around. It can destroy a man’s life and reputation.”
I’m sorry, but what? What about the victims?! Are the laity not people too? Clericalism, man, clericalism. It is a curse.
Here’s a Chicago Tribune story from 2013 about how much and for how long the Chicago Jesuits knew about Don McGuire’s rapes and molestations — and said nothing to law enforcement.
And now, Pope Francis has made one of those Chicago Jesuits his chief sex abuse prosecutor. A big reformer, that Pope Francis.
A couple of nights ago, I ran across a lengthy interview in New York magazine, titled, “What It’s Like to Date a Horse.” I thought it was a satire of some sort. It’s not. I’m not linking to it, because it is sick, sick stuff. It’s incredibly graphic, and I had decided not to write about it. But the more I thought about the thing, the more disturbed it made me. Here’s why: What’s significant is not that this deranged behavior happens. It has no doubt always been with us. What’s significant is that this interview appears in a mainstream magazine.
Says the zoophile in the interview: “I love me. I love who I am. I love my sexuality. … I wish we could talk more openly about sex and alternative sexual interests, or just sex in general.” He says that if we could do that, maybe so many zoophiles wouldn’t kill themselves. More:
Since there’s so much stigma attached to being a zoophile I imagine that means you don’t tell many people. Does it cause a split personality? What is it like for you to have a sexuality that’s not really accepted or understood?
I’m really lucky to have my wife, because nobody would ever guess. … Having said that, though, you are quite correct that it’s something that makes people feel confused and alone, and they have no idea what to think about what they are, and they can’t talk to anybody. I’ve heard stories of people getting shock or aversion therapy. I really don’t understand the hatred.
Do you wish you could be out and proud?
Absolutely. I’ve always been a very political person, and one of the reasons I started seeing a therapist is because I found that lately I’m having trouble with what people say about zoophiles. The same arguments over and over again, and nobody can support me because they get labeled. It’s been very hard dealing with those emotions and the heaviness of what it would be like to get caught and what’s being said and done to zoophiles, and the fact is, rather than actually engage with us, people would prefer to ignore us.
What have I done? I am a normal, average, hardworking guy. I pay my taxes, I make fairly good money, I have a nice house. I have dogs, I have ferrets, I have cats, a couple of rats, chickens in my backyard I’ve saved from places where they were just going to get killed. What have I done that’s so wrong? What is so wrong about physical contact between [myself and an animal]? And it does bring a weight. The experience of being a zoo adolescent was extremely lonely. I had no one to turn to, nobody to ask questions, and even if I had trusted someone I feel now like I would have gotten bad, heteronormative advice. It was a silent day-to-day struggle.
Yes, well, heaven forbid that somebody would give a freak who wants to poke a horse “bad, heteronormative advice.”
Princeton’s Robert George writes on his Facebook page:
First, please, somebody tell me that the interview in New York Magazine entitled “What It’s Like to Date a Horse” is a fake or some sort of spoof. Second, I will not post it here, because it is too disturbing. I urge friends not to read it unless you have a very, very, very strong stomach. I mention it, reluctantly, only to show that anyone who thought we had already reached the bottom of the slippery slope is mistaken. The descent into Gomorrah continues. I believe it can be reversed, but not simply stopped. “This far and no farther,” is not an option. “He who says A, says B.” Once a set of premises is adopted or endorsed, logic carries one to certain conclusions. One may have a subjective wish (rooted in an aversion, or preference, or lack of interest, or whatever) to where the logic of a position takes one, but a wish (or an aversion, or a preference) is not a principle.
He’s right. Again, I stress that the most disturbing thing about this is not that people who do this exist. It’s that a mainstream American magazine has published something this unspeakably perverse. And not just any mainstream magazine: New York has been a trendsetter since the 1960s. Under its current editor, former New York Times-man Adam Moss, New York has won a slew of National Magazine Awards, including being named 2013′s Magazine of the Year. This isn’t an Al Goldstein rag. This isn’t even the Village Voice.
There’s no way around it: New York magazine is mainstreaming bestiality as an alternative sexuality. It’s just different. Who are you to judge, you bad heteronormative person? How does his relationship with the mare affect you, huh?
One extremely tasteless and morally revolting interview in a leading magazine is not the end of the world. But it is a signpost. It’s not going to make everyone run out and get an animal boyfriend or girlfriend. But it does attempt to weaken an important taboo by giving a sympathetic forum to a deranged man whose behavior deserves the strongest condemnation, and who personally needs help. It’s important to pay attention to this for exactly the reason Robby George says. Ideas have consequences. If your idea is that all consensual sex is good, or at least beyond judgment, and that sexual desire is its own justification, then you have met your consequence in New York‘s anonymous zoophile. If you can stomach reading the thing, it’s rather remarkable how the perv defends himself and his desire using the language and reasoning we have all become familiar with in other contexts.
(And by the way, if the only thing you have to stand on to condemn Captain Equus here is that his girlfriend can’t meaningfully consent, then, well, you are ridiculous.)
UVA may be to fraternities what Boston was to the Catholic Church @CaitlinPacific
— W Bradford Wilcox (@WilcoxNMP) November 23, 2014
Brad Wilcox, by the way, is a sociologist who teaches at the University of Virginia. I had heard nothing of the UVA rape scandal until he linked via his Twitter feed to Rolling Stone‘s blockbuster exposé of the rape culture among the school’s fraternities. Please read this, especially if you have sons or daughters in college, or who will be in college one day.
It begins with a first-year female student named Jackie, invited upstairs by her date, a fraternity brother in Phi Kappa Psi, one of the oldest and most prestigious male Greek organizations on the UVA campus. Here is a serenade from that national fraternity’s songbook (the men in the accompanying video are not from the UVA chapter, as far as I can tell):
For she is the sweetheart of Phi Kappa Psi,
The girl of all girls most dear;
Hers is the love that will never, never die,
Thru the fortunes and sorrows that come with the years.
Her eyes speak of promise, most tender and true,
Of happiness soon to be,
For there’s coming a day
When each Phi Psi sails away
With his sweetheart in Phi Kappa Psi.
Yeah. So, Jackie was led into a gang-rape ambush. Rolling Stone reports:
She remembers every moment of the next three hours of agony, during which, she says, seven men took turns raping her, while two more – her date, Drew, and another man – gave instruction and encouragement. She remembers how the spectators swigged beers, and how they called each other nicknames like Armpit and Blanket. She remembers the men’s heft and their sour reek of alcohol mixed with the pungency of marijuana. Most of all, Jackie remembers the pain and the pounding that went on and on.
And then, after she escaped:
Minutes later, her three best friends on campus – two boys and a girl (whose names are changed) – arrived to find Jackie on a nearby street corner, shaking. “What did they do to you? What did they make you do?” Jackie recalls her friend Randall demanding. Jackie shook her head and began to cry. The group looked at one another in a panic. They all knew about Jackie’s date; the Phi Kappa Psi house loomed behind them. “We have to get her to the hospital,” Randall said.
Their other two friends, however, weren’t convinced. “Is that such a good idea?” she recalls Cindy asking. “Her reputation will be shot for the next four years.” Andy seconded the opinion, adding that since he and Randall both planned to rush fraternities, they ought to think this through. The three friends launched into a heated discussion about the social price of reporting Jackie’s rape, while Jackie stood beside them, mute in her bloody dress, wishing only to go back to her dorm room and fall into a deep, forgetful sleep. Detached, Jackie listened as Cindy prevailed over the group: “She’s gonna be the girl who cried ‘rape,’ and we’ll never be allowed into any frat party again.”
The Rolling Stone story reveals a campus culture in which fraternity houses are widely known as places where girls, especially freshman girls (who are too young to get into bars) are invited inside, gotten drunk, and bedded. The story says most of the sex is consensual, but sexual predators flourish among the general culture of booze and sex within the frat houses. Here’s the most appalling thing about the UVA story: the college’s administration and many of its alumni defend this culture, either passively or actively.
Throughout the story, you read over and over that the UVA administration refused to make anyone available to answer the reporter’s completely legitimate queries about what happened to Jackie and other women at the school. Get this: when Jackie went to the dean in charge of handling sexual assault claims (a woman, incidentally), she gave Jackie the choice of calling the cops or letting the university handle it:
Like many schools, UVA has taken to emphasizing that in matters of sexual assault, it caters to victim choice. “If students feel that we are forcing them into a criminal or disciplinary process that they don’t want to be part of, frankly, we’d be concerned that we would get fewer reports,” says associate VP for student affairs Susan Davis. Which in theory makes sense: Being forced into an unwanted choice is a sensitive point for the victims. But in practice, that utter lack of guidance can be counterproductive to a 19-year-old so traumatized as Jackie was that she was contemplating suicide. Setting aside for a moment the absurdity of a school offering to handle the investigation and adjudication of a felony sex crime – something Title IX requires, but which no university on Earth is equipped to do – the sheer menu of choices, paired with the reassurance that any choice is the right one, often has the end result of coddling the victim into doing nothing.
This is what the Catholic Church did. The first case I wrote about, back in 2001, involved an immigrant teenager who was passed around priests in a Bronx parish. When the boy’s father learned what happened, he went to see an auxiliary bishop. According to the victim’s lawyer, the auxiliary bishop allegedly pulled out a checkbook and offered a payout in exchange for the father signing a paper giving the Archdiocese of New York’s attorneys the right to handle his case. The father may have been a laborer and an immigrant, but he knew a scam when he saw it. He left and hired his own lawyer.
And here we see the University of Virginia following a similar script. The deeper you read into the story, the more clear it is that the University of Virginia’s administration has been absolutely and disgustingly derelict for decades, protecting the reputation of the institution at all costs. Excerpt:
If Seccuro’s story of administrative cover-up and apathy sounds outrageous, it’s actually in keeping with the stories told by other UVA survivors. After one alumna was abducted from a dark, wooded section of campus and raped in 1993, she says she asked a UVA administrator for better lighting. “They told me it would ruin Jefferson’s vision of what the university was supposed to look like,” the alum says. “As if Thomas Jefferson even knew about electric lights!” In 2002 and 2004, two female students, including Susan Russell’s daughter, were unhappy with their sexual-misconduct hearings, which each felt didn’t hold their alleged perpetrators accountable – and each was admonished by UVA administrators to never speak publicly about the proceedings or else they could face expulsion for violating the honor code. For issuing that directive, in 2008 UVA was found in violation of the Clery Act.
Please do read the entire Rolling Stone article. It is no more credible to believe that this phenomenon is isolated to the University of Virginia than it is to believe that clerical sexual abuse was limited to the Archdiocese of Boston. I hope Brad Wilcox is right, and this sparks a nationwide series of newspaper investigations into fraternity rapes and the responses of universities.
By the way, the University of Virginia was finally shamed into action by the RS piece. UVA’s president Teresa Sullivan has temporarily suspended all fraternity activity on campus. You’ll note in the RS story that many of these UVA administrators are women.
I don’t understand the attraction of college Greek life. I will strongly discourage my children — not just my daughter, but my sons — from getting involved with it in any way. Too rapey. I do not want my kids, as college students, to be subject to rape, to participate in rape, or to be in a position in which they are pressured to prove their loyalty to their fraternity, their friends, and their university by staying silent about rape.
I was never involved with a fraternity when I was an undergrad, and never partied at a frat house. It is unjust and inaccurate to say that all fraternity brothers are like the men in this story. But when I think back to how getting drunk was a regular part of campus life for both Greek and non-Greek (including Your Working Boy, for sure) when I was at LSU (this was the 1980s, when it was legal for 18 year olds to drink), it is very, very easy to imagine the same kind of thing that happened at UVA happening at my college, and many others. To be clear: I don’t know that it did, or does, but boy, does the Rolling Stone description of the drunken scene outside UVA frat houses, especially during Rush Week, sound familiar.
In other news of powerful men getting away with raping drunk or drugged women, more and more women are emerging with allegations that Bill Cosby attacked them. The Washington Post had a long, brutal story about this yesterday. By the time this is over, there won’t be anything left of Cosby. If even a fraction of these stories are true, then good; let justice come down on Cosby, on UVA, and on all who have victimized the weak and gotten away with it.
Did you see the opening skit of Saturday Night Live last night? It makes fun of Obama from the right. It’s a satire of an old “Schoolhouse Rock” routine, but this time showing Obama shoving the Bill down the Capitol steps — this, in making fun of his executive order on immigration.
In his column today, Ross Douthat analyzes how Obama went from being a candidate critical of the Cheneyite model of the presidency, and what he considered to be Bush’s abuses of executive power, to becoming just like what he criticized. Excerpts:
The scope of Obama’s moves can be debated, but that basic imperial reality is clear. Even as he has maintained much of the Bush-era national security architecture, this president has been more willing to launch military operations without congressional approval; more willing to trade in assassination and deal death even to American citizens; and more aggressive in his war on leakers, whistle-blowers and journalists.
At the same time, he has been much more aggressive than Bush in his use of executive power to pursue major domestic policy goals — on education, climate change, health care and now most sweepingly on immigration.
Douthat has been a vocal and forceful opponent of Obama’s immigration move, but I found his contention that Congressional Republicans’ unwilligness or inability to govern in normal ways is an important factor in Obama’s imperialization:
This is the point that liberals raise, and plausibly, in President Obama’s defense: It isn’t just that he’s been dealing with an opposition party that’s swung to the right; it’s that this opposition doesn’t know its own mind, collectively or sometimes even individually, and so has trouble bargaining or legislating effectively.
This reality has made it harder to cut major bipartisan deals; it’s made it harder to solve problems that crop up within existing law; it’s made it harder for the president to count votes on foreign policy. All of which creates more incentives for presidential unilateralism: In some cases, it seems required to keep the wheels turning; in others, it can be justified as the only way to get the Big Things done.
Read the whole thing. I would add too that most Republicans had no complaints when George W. Bush behaved this way. What you tolerate, you encourage. When the next Republican president takes office, and begins throwing his weight around in the same way, liberals who cheer Obama’s immigration move will have no room to complain.
Like Douthat, I think what Obama did was outrageous, not necessarily on policy (I don’t know enough about immigration policy to say), but as a political matter. No president, Republican or Democrat, should impose such a consequential and far-reaching policy in defiance of Congress. But this one did. Cheney would be proud.
My own reporting suggests that we are witnessing the end of the Chinese economic miracle. We are seeing just how much of China’s success depended on a debt-powered housing bubble and corruption-laced spending. The construction crane isn’t necessarily a symbol of economic vitality; it can also be a symbol of an economy run amok.
Most of the Chinese cities I visited are ringed by vast, empty apartment complexes whose outlines are visible at night only by the blinking lights on their top floors. I was particularly aware of this on trips to the so-called third- and fourth-tier cities—the 200 or so cities with populations ranging from 500,000 to several million, which Westerners rarely visit but which account for 70% of China’s residential property sales.
From my hotel window in the northeastern Chinese city of Yingkou, for example, I could see empty apartment buildings stretching for miles, with just a handful of cars driving by. It made me think of the aftermath of a neutron-bomb detonation—the structures left standing but no people in sight.
That’s a fascinating bit of journalistic sleuthing: looking at newly built housing projects by night, and seeing that they are in fact Potemkin villages. More:
China followed Japan and South Korea in using exports to pull itself out of poverty. But China’s immense scale has now become a limitation. As the world’s largest exporter, how much more growth can it count on from trade with the U.S. and especially Europe? Shift the economy toward innovation? That is the mantra of every advanced economy, but China’s rivals have a big advantage: Their societies encourage free thought and idiosyncratic beliefs.
When I talked to Chinese college students, I would ask them about their plans. Why, I wondered, in an economy with seemingly limitless potential, did so few choose to become entrepreneurs? According to researchers in the U.S. and China, engineering students at Stanford were seven times as likely as those at the most elite Chinese universities to join startups.
One interview with an environmental engineering student at Tsinghua University stuck with me. His parents grew wealthy by building companies that made shoes and water pumps. But he had no desire to follow in their footsteps—and they didn’t want him to either. Better that he work for the state, they told him: The work was more secure, and perhaps he could wind up in a government position that could help the family business.
That is significant. It reveals a parasitic mentality: the people who ought to be the producer class encouraging their children to work for the state, in part to help the family business. That can’t be good, for China or any society. That said, for 30 years or so, I have heard that China was bound to democratize, because you can’t have successful capitalism without liberal institutions (= a free press, free speech, democracy, rule of law). China has proved Western critics massively wrong.
Read the whole thing. It’s short, and important.
UPDATE: Good comment from Anand:
Some strong points made in the article. However, as with a lot of journalism I feel that there’s too much focus on the short term. A few snapshots:
1. My daughter is currently about 5 months into a two year term teaching rural China with an organization called Teach for China (loosely affiliated with Teach for America with a similar philosophy). What’s clear from her experience thus far is that the Chinese system has a long way to go in educating everybody to the level of being able to perform in a modern economy.
But the thing is, the Chinese are genuinely trying to make efforts in that direction. They are actively trying to upgrade their rural education system and improve their universities. They are asking questions about what they can do better. From what I’ve seen there’s a definite contrast between China and India in this regard.
2. A colleague of mine has a visiting appointment at a Chinese university. China is starting to bring in foreign scholars and establish the equivalent of the Max-Planck Institutes in Germany. This is something that Japan, Korea and India are not doing, and it offers China the potential of leapfrogging these countries scientifically. Some of the better students coming out of US universities are going back to China to work and teach there. I’ve personally seen a steady increase in the quality of papers coming out of China in recent years.
3 I had lunch a few weeks ago with a former undergrad who moved back to China to help run a family business. Again I was really impressed not only by what she’s trying to do, but by her love for her country motivating her to do it.
What all of these stories have in common is that China is trying to build up and invest in its people, and to some extent it is succeeding in growing and attracting talent. The question is whether the broader trends exemplified here are sustainable over decades. They may not be. But the Chinese do have leaders who are thinking on these scales, while our politicians try to win the next news cycle.
Via Niall Gooch, here’s an astute analysis by Charles Moore of the rise of Ukip, and the cluelessness of Labour and the Tory party, as well as Britain’s mainstream media. Their problem, he says, is that they believe that History Is On Their Side — but failed to convince the British voter of same. Excerpt:
The persistent mainstream charge against Ukip and its supporters is that they are nostalgists, dwellers-in-the-past, people who just don’t like the modern world. There is some truth in this: like the Scottish Nationalist Party, Ukip trades in dreams of old glory more than policies for future success. But the wrong conclusion is drawn.
In any old, stable, free country, there are many losses which deserve to be mourned. It is not irrational or unpleasant to wish you could still leave your house unlocked, expect your children to share school classes with pupils who can all speak English, or not find your wages, at the lower end of the income scale, threatened by foreigners who will work for less. In such a civilisation, of which Britain is a prime example, change is welcomed only if the best of the good, old things are secured in the process.
In Britain today, many people feel that the good, old things have not been secured and that the changes are not helping them. If they are indigenous, and from the poorer half of society, they are probably right. It is true, for instance, that modern sophisticated societies need quite a lot of immigration; but it is even more blindingly obvious that extremely high rates (we have double the number of immigrants of 20 years ago), which, because of the EU, the Government cannot control, are unpleasant for the poor communities which have to accommodate them. This makes them socially dangerous. If, when you complain about this, you not only get no help, but are also told that you are a horrible person, you get angry. And if you get angry, you are much more likely to vote Ukip.
The two “great faults” of the modernizers, says Moore, is that a) they treat what is modern as what is inevitable, and b) they moralize the future, such that anyone who doesn’t agree with them must be denounced as a bigot, or otherwise morally inferior. The inability of either party (or, one imagines, the UK’s mainstream media) to understand these things as conceptual barriers to their understanding of how the real world works handicaps them all. Read the whole thing.
I’m not sure how, in the particulars, the dynamic that Charles Moore identifies applies to the United States. I mean, I recognize the phenomenon, and I suppose it explains the Tea Party. But I am interested in expressions of this phenomenon outside the realm of politics. Can you think of any? Gay marriage was one, until it wasn’t — but we still would not have it in many places if not for the judiciary, which is part of the Modernizer class of elites (which is both a right wing and a left wing phenomenon). What else? This is your thought experiment of the day. I’m going to go to a place that does not have Internet, and work on the revision of my book.
I kept waiting for this CNN program hosted by Lisa Ling to say, “Surprise! Here’s the dark secret!” But it didn’t. It’s genuinely inspiring, so much so that even Ling seeems to have been moved by the example of these men.
This episode of Ling’s program focuses on Fowler, Michigan, a town of 1,200 that has a reputation of producing priests, even in this time of lean vocations. Ling spends time with several of the young men from the town who have become priests, and one 19 year old who’s in seminary. It’s really something else. The best part is an interview with Father Mathias Thelen, 32, a former football star at Fowler’s high school. He was ordained in 2010. At about the 26-minute mark in the show, Ling asks him how the Scandal affected his sense of calling to the priesthood. He says:
“Right after the scandals broke in the church, I remember thinking to myself is this really what I want? Do I really want to step into the church here? There are two responses to evil. Either I allowed that evil to in a sense discourage me from doing good or I actually use that as a motivation to do all the more the will of God. And so, I actually used the scandal as something which propelled me forward in proclaiming God to a world that is hurting.”
It’s something else to see how solid he is, and how convicted.
Later, when Ling talks to a group of seminarians, the Scandal comes up. One of the men says that their generation is going to have to be the one that rebuilds. This is a burden they accept. Powerful stuff. Watch it and be inspired.
I found the show through a tweet by Nicholas Cotta, who tweeted that watching that program makes him think that I might be right — presumably about the Benedict Option. How is it that this little farming community can produce so many priests? The show doesn’t really answer that question, but you can see that this is an overwhelmingly Catholic town that takes its faith seriously. People go to church. They talk about Jesus Christ, and they’re not embarrassed or cagey. It’s nothing fancy, just good country people who believe, and who believe as a community. Somehow, they have found a way to hold on, and not only to hold on, but to bear astonishing fruit.
Whatever they’re doing, we all need more of it.
The show is called This Is Life with Lisa Ling. I really have to give Ling and CNN credit here for a well-done show. She asked some hard questions of the young priests and seminarians — I wish she had asked them questions that gave us more of a sense of what they believe, and how they place themselves within the Church — but she let them speak for themselves, and it ended up being the most positive portrayal of the Catholic priesthood that I have seen on TV news since I can’t remember when. Even if you’re not Catholic, if you find yourself despairing of the state of religious life in the US, watch that program and see what the young men of Fowler, Michigan, are creating: hope.
I do not follow the immigration debate closely, so I do not have a well-informed opinion about the amnesty President Obama just declared for 5 million illegal immigrants, who are in this country in defiance of its laws. But I am gobsmacked that this or any other president would issue an executive order on something as massive as this, without having Congress behind him. It really is outrageous — and the Democrats are going to reap the whirlwind.
President Obama’s executive order eliminating the threat of deportation for millions of undocumented immigrants is good policy. It is the right thing to do. But it is a dangerous move for the Democratic Party.
Yes, immigration is an important issue for most Latinos and Asian-Americans. And yes, 63 percent of Latinos and 66 percent of Asian- Americans voted for Democratic candidates for Congress in the midterms. The executive order could solidify and expand that support for years to come.
But Latinos and Asian-Americans made up only 11 percent of the electorate. Even if immigration were the only issue driving their vote — and it most certainly was not — it could have shifted the national partisan balance of power by only a few percentage points.
Whites, meanwhile, accounted for 75 percent of the electorate. Far more than any other group, whites will decide the fate of the parties in the years to come. Unfortunately for the Democratic Party, the data suggest that immigration very much matters for whites.
Immigrants are moving to almost every corner of the nation. They usually look different from the white majority. And, irrespective of the facts, the dominant narrative maintains that immigrants rely heavily on public services like welfare, education and health care, that immigrants take jobs from native-born workers and lower their wages, and that immigration is leading to cultural decline.
Polls indicate that an overwhelming majority of white Americans view illegal immigration as a serious problem. A third think immigration over all is bad for the country.
Even if you favor the policy Obama is imposing, you had better think long and hard about the meaning of this move by a president. As Ross Douthat said on Sunday:
No defender of Obama’s proposed move has successfully explained why it wouldn’t be a model for a future president interested in unilateral rewrites of other areas of public policy (the tax code, for instance) where sweeping applications of “discretion” could achieve partisan victories by fiat. No liberal has persuasively explained how, after spending the last Republican administration complaining about presidential “signing statements,” it makes sense for the left to begin applying Cheneyite theories of executive power on domestic policy debates.
Especially debates in which the executive branch is effectively acting in direct defiance of the electoral process. This is where the administration has entered extraordinarily brazen territory, since part of its original case for taking these steps was that they supposedly serve the public will, which only yahoos and congressional Republicans oppose.
This argument was specious before; now it looks ridiculous.
Lo, this didn’t take long. Look at this now airing on Louisiana airwaves:
To be clear, linking to that ad does not imply TAC’s endorsement of a candidate. We do not endorse candidates. I’m linking to it to show you how the GOP Senate candidate is pouncing on the Obama amnesty to pound his Democratic opponent. Landrieu didn’t have much of a chance before, but the only question raised by the Obama amnesty is whether or not he’ll break 60 percent on election day. Well, this question too: is this ad a preview of the GOP’s 2016 strategy?