Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

Quick Hits: On law and metaphysics; discovering the TLM; overcoming a pandemic of fear

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jul 20, 2020

A hot, humid weekend seemed a good time to catch up on reading columns that I had set aside. Among the best of them:

  • Also addressing the Supreme Court’s tenuous hold on reality, att National Review, Gerard Bradley looks at the little-noticed case of Pavan v. Smith, which involved an Arkansas law that proclaims “the mother is deemed to be the woman who gives birth to the child.” That law was challenged by same-sex couples, who cited the Obergefell decision and argued that the Arkansas statute denies them equal rights. As Bradley observes, “Arkansas law did not presume that what is naturally impossible, actually occurred.” The same-sex couples prevailed. Bradley remarks that this judicial logic scoffs not just at the Arkansas law, “but at what nature and nature’s God have wrought.” Pay careful attention to that phrase: nature and nature’s God. Because it’s a reminder that this legal madness strikes at the very foundation of the American Republic. Are there any remaining truths that we, as a nation, hold to be self-evident?

  • Ryan Anderson picks up the same argument in a Public Discourse essay, cautioning against a premature celebration of the victories that the Supreme Court provided for religious liberty (notably in the Little Sisters and Espinoza cases. The victories themselves are welcome, but they do not restore the vital principles, grounded in reality, that were under attack. As Anderson notes, “Religious liberty, after all, doesn’t protect people who aren’t religious but reject progressive gender ideology.” He makes a strong case that social conservatives must continue the fight on the facts of these cases: facts which apply to everyone, and can be demonstrated to all who are open to rational argument:
    Far from its being discrimination to “rely on a patient’s sex,” it is a requirement of good medicine, which is sex-specific to the male or female body of the patient.
    As the law stands, Anderson points out, the gains won for religious liberty—for example in the Little Sisters case—“can be readily undone by a future hostile administration. Just look at what joe Biden has already promised.” So the only effective long-term strategy is to continue the battle, “but on the substantive issues at stake.”

  • Bishop Joseph Strickland, whose candor is always refreshing, told the National Catholic Register about his first experience celebrating the traditional Latin Mass. He was completely unfamiliar with the extraordinary form, but “found myself, more and more, becoming aware of the Latin Mass and the draw of the people to it, that it wasn’t this antiquated, negative thing that needed to stay buried.” He describes the process of learning the old Mass, discovering the richness of the traditional liturgy. Bishop Strickland is not uncritical of traditionalist Catholics—his candor comes through there, too—but he concludes: “After what I have experienced, as bishop, I cannot help but encourage everyone towards meeting Jesus in wonder, within the beauty of the extraordinary form of the Mass.”

  • Even more refreshing was this terrific column in the National Catholic Register by Msgr. Charles Pope, on the excessive fear of the CO19 virus. Fear is an instrument of the devil, Msgr. Pope knows, and so he recoils at the attitude that sees other human beings as vectors for the spread of disease. “As a priest, I cannot imagine anything more demonic than this sort of fear. Satan wants us to fear and even detest one another.” The media feed the fear, he observes, but the Church should counter it. So: “I write to express my concern and to reiterate the constant biblical cry, “Do not be afraid!” Yes, the disease threatens lives. But Christians should not live in fear; death is not the worst tragedy.
    In the Church, collectively speaking, we too have cowered and capitulated. We have not summoned people to trust and faith. We have hidden our teachings on the role of suffering in bringing forth holiness and future glory. We have not presented the theology of death and dying at a time when it is so needed.
    In a column that restores faithful optimism, Msgr. Pope encourages us to look beyond the current crisis, and see the opportunities for helping people put the threat in the proper perspective: the perspective of eternity.
    Isn’t there more to living than just not dying or not getting sick? Will we as a Church be part of this conversation or will we remain fearfully silent? Will we simply reflect the beliefs and opinions of the current culture, or will we influence it with a theology that insists that suffering and death have meaning and an important role in our lives?

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: feedback - Jul. 21, 2020 6:49 PM ET USA

    Thank you for sharing the wonderful message of hope from Msgr. Charles Pope. Hopefully, after the November elections, main stream media will see no more "need" to exaggerate and lie for political gains.