In View

Lions 14, Christians 0

“Why haven’t Christians demanded that the world remember the destruction of the Armenian Christians as the Jews demand that the world remember the Holocaust?”

“Why are Christians silent about the terrible persecution of fellow Christians in the Soviet Union? There are more Christians in the Gulag than Jews. Yet when Billy Graham visited the Soviet Union he not only publicly ignored the issue, he took the side of the Soviet authorities.”

These are not words from a right -wing Catholic envious of the political power of the Jews. Rather, they come from a prominent Jewish thinker, Dennis Praeger, who has published his thoughts in his quarterly newsletter “Ultimate Issues.”

Praeger is bewildered by what he sees as Catholic indifference to persecution of Catholics. He finds only one explanation. Christianity, he says, is not as serious about the sin of cruelty as Judaism. “In Judaism cruelty is the greatest sin,” Praeger says. “And the greatest good therefore is fighting against this evil.” By contrast, he says, Christians emphasize “resist not evil” and “judge not.” Christian forgiveness, he implies, blinds people to the point that they cannot recognize the crime that demands forgiveness.

Could theology be why the U.S. Catholic Conference does not apply vocal and vigilant pressure on Nicaragua and the Soviet Union? Or is it only the familiar politics?

Saint Fidel

Tennant Wright, S.J., professor of theology at the University of Santa Clara, has just returned from a visit to Cuba. Aren’t you eager to hear what he’s discovered? The readers of America, the Jesuit monthly, are, and did, in the magazine’s issue of October 24.

Wright begins with touching vignettes. “At the main Sunday Mass in Havana’s Jesuit church, people filled three-fourths of the church, teenagers as well as old, young married couples with children. The songs were reverent, with drums and lively Cuban rhythms. The people read Scripture and helped with Communion. Women as well as men ushered. An older priest celebrated the liturgy and gave First Communion to some of the young people, with a dignity both traditional and fresh. The sermon challenged the young men and women to the Christian struggle for faith and justice.”

* * *

He goes on to celebrate the leadership of Cuba’s great leader, Fidel Castro. “He looks to the Catholic Church for theological analysis of the revolution,” Wright informs us with a straight face.

Among Castro’s head-splitting dilemmas, we learn, is “motivating Cuban youth toward integrity and concern for the common good.” Wright knows it will be tough. “How to motivate morally the youth who have not known the oppression of Batista, and have not fought in the mountains with Fidel and Che?”

These are the kids who would rather wear designer jeans and listen to rock music rather than bash store owners over the head with rocks. Alas, revolutionary standards have declined.

“Catholics in Cuba are no longer persecuted,” Wright announces. We soon learn that he is to the left of Castro on this point. Even Castro concedes, “If I were asked if any subtle discrimination existed against Christians, I’d say yes. It’s not intentional. It’s not deliberate. It’s not programmed. It exists and we have to overcome this phase.”

But Catholics can’t possibly be allowed into the ruling party, Castro says. After all, he must “move slowly.” His power is limited. He “can’t even mention the possibility” right now. What do people take him for—a dictator? He does say that “progressive” priests fighting for revolution in El Salvador and Nicaragua are helping soften the climate for Catholics. He calls for more of this constructive engagement.

No doubt we can expect equally absorbing follow- up articles by Wright in America on “Catholicism: Alive and Well in Apartheid South Africa” and “Soviet Psychiatric Hospitals: Finding Social Justice Under Trying Conditions.”

Aiding AIDS

When Jesse Helms announced his amendment to ban federal funding from AIDS programs that “promote or encourage homosexual activities,” many Democrats and a few Republicans were in a bind.

“What the hell am I going to do?” one anguished Democrat exclaimed. Sympathetic to the homosexual cause, this august gentleman comes from a heartland district. “I’m just going to vote ‘present,’ ” he asserted. “I’m not going to vote ‘for’ or ‘against.’” His colleagues told him that was ridiculous; anything but a vote in favor of the amendment would be interpreted as a vote for gay sex.

Gay sex, in this context, referred to the enthusiasms of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis of New York, which received $675,000 in federal funds last year. GMHO says it doesn’t discourage homosexual behavior, but rather promotes “safe” expressions of affection such as mutual masturbation, sharing sex toys, porn patronage, and “healthy” sadomasochism.

According to a GMHC grant application filed with the government, most homosexuals equate “safe” sex with “boring, unsatisfying sex.” Historically these persons have “reaffirmed their gay identity through sexual expression.” Moreover, “Recommendations to change sexual behavior may be seen as oppressive.”

Embracing these arguments was Sen. Lowell Weicker of Connecticut, who opposed the Helms amendment with red-faced abandon. “We don’t have time to get into a moralistic debate,” he growled. “We have to do what we’ve been told by scientific and medical experts.” Senator Helms, in his typical understatement, responded that some homosexual groups “do not encourage a change in perverted behavior. Rather, they promote sodomy.” Encouraging the behavior most commonly associated with the transmission of the AIDS virus is a peculiar way of controlling AIDS, he added.

The Helms amendment passed, 98 to 2.

The Other Kennedy

Don’t confuse the two this Kennedy will make an excellent addition to the Supreme Court of the United States.

There appears to be some apprehension among Catholics about the administration’s third nominee. Kennedy’s record on the Court of Appeals is ambiguous. The man appears more of a technician than a philosopher, and was Howard Baker’s candidate and not Ed Meese’s. Worst of all, some pro-abortion Democrats such as Senator Biden have been saying nice things about him.

On the other hand, Kennedy’s ruling in the homosexual case did not endorse Roe v. Wade. It found narrower ground to overturn the alleged privacy right for homosexuals, but this can be explained as clever maneuvering by Judge Kennedy to get Democratic appointees to go along with him. Better, in other words, to get a majority on narrow grounds than to go down in lonely dissent, while allowing a bad precedent to stand. Sometimes a pragmatic technician is more valuable than a fulminating uncompromiser.

Kennedy has voted against comparable worth, in favor of free market rules governing business, against criminal prerogatives, in favor of a “good faith exception” to the exclusionary rule, and against congressional usurpation of presidential power.

The man is a practicing Catholic with a normal family. He hasn’t experimented with marijuana, plagiarism, or dunking young women after a drunken spree.

Falwell’s Triumph

According to Time magazine, right before Judge Anthony Kennedy was nominated to the Supreme Court, White House officials sat him down and ran through 21 pages of single-spaced questions.

Was your wife pregnant when you married? No.

Have you ever visited a massage parlor? No.

Have you ever used cocaine? No.

Acid? No.

Marijuana? No.

Heroin? No.

Have you seen other women since you married? No.

Have you ever bought pornography? Yes.

Yes? “I bought several hard-core books and magazines for use in my constitutional law class,” Kennedy explained. Everyone laughed.

What has become astonishingly evident by this, however, is that once again it matters for a public official as to what kind of life they live. Not just whether they file their taxes on time and whether they ever made demeaning comments about minorities, but also whether they used drugs and behaved promiscuously.

Who is responsible for this change of climate? Jerry Falwell smiles beatifically.

Exploit This Child!

Congress is considering the “Child Pornography and Obscenity Enforcement Act” which proposes major new steps to stop the exploitation of children. The Meese Commission report on pornography, much derided as hyperbolic and ridiculous, was in fact and tone much more sober than its detractors in detailing horrifying instances of child battering and child rape.

Measures proposed by the new act include:

  • Inclusion of child porn under organized crime statutes, permitting forfeiture of profits.
  • Expansion of language prohibiting interstate trafficking in pornography.
  • Elimination of Dial-a-porn services.
  • Prohibition of the use of computers to advertise, distribute or receive child pornography.

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