“For Democrats, it’s the gift that keeps giving: If all else fails, just call
Republicans racists . . . ”
—Neil Cavuto, FOX News
Well, everything else is indeed failing, but the racism racket is working so well that it won’t be going away any time soon. Al Sharpton sees “white supremacism” everywhere among Obama’s critics, and he has a lot of company.
The noise of the “racism” universe is deafening. But under the din lies a surprising source of moral support for the racial hucksters: the Catholic Church.
Over the years, the left has had considerable success perverting the originally Catholic notion of social justice into an imprimatur for envy. But the Washington bureaucracy of the American bishops went even further when it branded virtually every American Caucasian as pathological, incurable racists.
The year was 1979, when the noxious infection called the “Spirit of Vatican II” was at its height, turning everything Catholic upside down. Even morality was not spared. America’s bishops, struggling to explain the failure of the welfare state, announced in an official pastoral letter, Brothers and Sisters to Us, that whites bear an original sin of racism, and thus even the poorest of the white poor are responsible for the miseries of the minority poor.
Like our own day, 1979 was a troubled time. “This new economic crisis,” the bishops write, “reveals an unresolved racism that permeates our society’s structures and resides in the hearts of many among the majority.” The bishops are careful—here, at least—not to charge all “among the majority” (a racial majority, one presumes) with racism. In fact, it’s difficult to tell just who the racists are: “Because it is less blatant, this subtle form of racism is in some respects even more dangerous—harder to combat and easier to ignore.”
This is followed immediately by a non sequitur masquerading as a critical logical conclusion: “Major segments of the population are being pushed to the margins of society in our nation.”
The bishops do not articulate what other “forms” of racism there are, or which of those might be more or less “blatant” or “dangerous” than the “subtle form.” Instead, they shift the ground and view this new “subtle form” of racism through the reductionist lens of “economic justice”:
We wish to call attention to the persistent presence of racism and in particular to the relationship between racial and economic justice. Racism and economic oppression are distinct but interrelated forces which dehumanize our society.
So two impersonal and dehumanizing “forces” are evidently at work—both of them materialist, permeating the “structures” of society.
The analysis continues to drift leftward, claiming a “new” discovery. (Marx would call it a “correlation of forces.”) This “new” discovery of racist economic oppression resonates with familiar notions of alienation and class struggle, as well as their inevitable resolution in the call to consciousness-raising—in this case, raising the “collective consciousness of Americans.”
Having flirted with materialism, the bishops suddenly make a U-turn, embracing now the language of moral absolutes: “Racism is a sin.”
Well, that’s a relief. Now, instead of Marx’s manifesto, we can consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which tells us that a sinful act must constitute a voluntary and deliberate breach of the moral law. The catechism does distinguish between mortal and venial sin, but nowhere does it mention “subtle sin,” “social sin,” or “structural sin.” The bishops created a new category in 1979. On what mountaintop did they find it? They do not say.
The plot thickens: This newly revealed “subtle sin” of racism has been undetectable in the past, if it existed then at all. Only the “new economic crisis”—not the Gospel, the Magisterium, or the Deposit of Faith—has revealed it.
This is hardly surprising: The dialectic’s dynamic “correlation of forces” comes up with such new revelations all the time. But the pastoral letter’s dialectic is coy, dancing delicately to camouflage economic determinism with moral language:
Today in our country men, women, and children are being denied opportunities for full participation and advancement in our society because of their race. The educational, legal, and financial systems, along with other structures and sectors of our society, impede people’s progress and narrow their access because they are black, Hispanic, Native American or Asian.
“Progress” is to be understood here solely in economic terms. And the permissive passive voice fails to reveal just who is doing the denying. Apparently, various impersonal “systems,” “structures,” “forces,” and “sectors” somehow share the moral guilt. Note also the arbitrary “minority” classification; it’s hardly inclusive. Where are the Inuits and the Pacific Islanders?
The bishops continue: “The structures of our society are subtly racist, for these structures reflect the values which society upholds.” So there is cause and effect: Society’s “values” are racist; hence society’s “structures” are. (Perhaps this explains why Archbishop Gomez, the bishops’ current frontman for amnesty, condemns the American political tradition for its “nativism” and “bigotry.”)
The structures “are geared to the success of the majority and the failure of the minority. Members of both groups give unwitting approval by accepting things as they are.” Here again, “success” and “failure” are measured in strictly economic terms. More importantly, however, the bishops appear magically to read the hearts of both an undefined “majority” and an opposing “minority”: Both have witlessly (the opposite of “voluntarily” and “deliberately”) embraced racist “values”—without even knowing it!
The “sinner” doesn’t know it, but the bishops do: kind of the opposite of Confession, where it is the sinner who tells the confessor his sins, and not vice versa.
Then comes the classic: Mea culpa? Minime!
“Perhaps no single individual is to blame.”
The catechism makes it clear that only the “single individual” can sin—and when he does, he is indeed to blame: “The root of sin is in the heart of man, in his free will.”
Again, the bishops disagree: “The sinfulness is often anonymous but nonetheless real. The sin is social in nature in that each of us, in varying degrees, is responsible. All of us in some measure are accomplices.”
Our old friend, “collective guilt,” struts and frets his hour upon the stage.
No exceptions, this time around. The “many” has morphed into “all.” In the end, class consciousness triumphs over Catholic moral anthropology. Everybody is guilty of this new category of sin, even though nobody but the bishops knows it.
The bishops’ view of witless, anonymous, “subtle sin” is hardly original. It has a long history in leftist lore.
In Orwell’s Ministry of Love—Big Brother’s huge network of torture chambers—an anguished Winston is stunned to see Parsons, his former neighbor and fellow Outer Party member, thrust into the holding cell. His seven-year-old daughter has accused him of thoughtcrime.
“Thoughtcrime is a dreadful thing, old man,” he said sententiously. “It’s insidious. It can get hold of you without your even knowing it. . . . Between you and me, old man, I’m glad they got me before it went any further. Do you know what I’m going to say to them when I go up before the tribunal? ‘Thank you,’ I’m going to say, ‘thank you for saving me before it was too late.’”
Thoughtcrime: Like witless, anonymous racism, the more “subtle” it is, the more “dangerous.”
The pastoral letter’s new and unhappy revelation of “subtle sin” spawns more fundamental errors. For instance, the bishops identify “unresolved racism” only in the hearts of the white majority, absolving their selection of minorities of that “subtle sin”; yet, minorities are not blameless, having also “accepted” it. Moreover, not all of the poor are exonerated: Rather than expressing solicitude for poor whites, the letter actually asserts that their “racism” is “exacerbated” because they must compete for jobs with the “oppressed” minorities.
So much for the “preferential option for the poor”: White folk need not apply.
Even when considered by the softest of hearts and minds, this mélange of oppression, alienation, and struggle driving the correlation of forces has no basis in Catholic doctrine—outside of Liberation Theology, of course.
That hardly subtle heresy was rampant among the Catholic left in the 70’s. Throughout the Americas, North and South, its adherents drove millions of Catholics to evangelical churches. “We preach the Bible,” they proclaimed, “while the Catholics preach politics.”
And those politics have fortified America’s cultural and political left with an endless supply of faux moralisms for decades.
The bishops of 1979 were probably the most political and liberal in American history. Most had grown up in Democratic working-class families. They were valiant supporters of unions, suspicious of greedy Republicans, and veterans of the civil-rights struggles.
With the inauguration of LBJ’s Great Society programs, the bishops made another new economic discovery: free federal money. Thus began the transfer of the funding of Catholic charities from voluntary donors to the mandatory tax man. Today, those enterprises operate primarily as government contractors, receiving billions each year in federal grants.
The bishops were mimicking their colleagues in Catholic universities, who declared independence from Rome in the 60’s and began raking in billions in federal largesse soon thereafter.
The 70’s were not the finest hour for the American Catholic Church. The “Spirit of Vatican II” desecrated the liturgy and filled theology departments with nonsense; it emptied the pews, as well as the intellects of millions of students in Catholic schools.
“Liberation” of all kinds thrived. Homosexuals filled the seminaries, while good men fled. In fact, Russell Shaw, who served as the spokesman for the bishops’ conference for years, identifies the 1970’s as dismal times for the Church: 1976 was “the worst year ever,” he writes in American Church—and 1979 was not far behind.
And what have the bishops been doing—and not doing—since?
Since 1979, ample research has revealed that the dissolution of the family, and of sexual morality in general, has been the major engine of poverty in America. In fact, illegitimacy, divorce, cohabitation, fatherless homes, and other measurable factors have increased failure in school and work and contributed to criminal behavior, while race virtually disappears as an indicator.
Of course, thanks to welfare-state programs that the bishops have strongly supported for decades, the illegitimacy rate among blacks has soared to over 70 percent, yet the pastoral letter does not question the wisdom or impact of those programs.
In fact, despite the profound injury to the poor caused by the Sexual Revolution, the bishops have had laryngitis regarding the Church’s moral doctrine on sex and marriage for some 50 years, according to Timothy Cardinal Dolan in 2012, when he was serving as president of the bishops’ conference. As though to confirm that observation, the 1979 pastoral letter fails to mention abortion and illegitimacy altogether.
Instead, the bureaucracy of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops strides on, flooding Capitol Hill with a steady stream of authoritative missives in support of the welfare state. They ignore the damage that implementation of their agenda has wrought—especially on families, the elderly, and the poor: rampant inflation; the collapse of public education; the homosexualization of the military; the massive attack on personal privacy; ObamaCare’s marriage penalty; and the cancerous growth of an increasingly anti-Catholic, antilife Leviathan that would have been impossible, had they not supported it.
One lonely bishop has valiantly raised his voice against real racism. Five years ago, the Catholic News Agency reported, “Bishop Martin D. Holley, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington, called on African Americans to rededicate themselves to family, prayer and the dignity of the human person.” Bishop Holley, fully cognizant of the law of cause and effect, was “responding to information from the Guttmacher Institute reporting that black women have abortions at five times the rate of white women.”
Such voices are welcome, but rare. Apparently, it is an easy task for a prelate to descry evil in the hearts of “the majority,” but well-nigh impossible for him to acknowledge publicly the virulent hatred of the professional race-baiters.
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