sexta-feira, 29 de junho de 2012

The Day After: A Declaration of War - by Christopher Manion

In Crisis 

“We’ve grown hoarse saying this is not about contraception, this is about religious freedom,” Timothy Cardinal Dolan has repeatedly insisted, regarding the lawsuits opposing the HHS Obamacare Mandate.

I beg to differ. On both prudential and metaphysical grounds, it is about contraception.

On the practical level, in politics, as Grover Norquist reminds us, you don’t get two desserts. With the loss at the Supreme Court, we will have to adopt the position that the Mandate is a bad law and we will not follow it regardless of our loss in court. “Sore losers!” will come the reply.

Why not just tell the truth now? Yes, our First Amendment rights are fundamental – in fact, they existed long before the Bill of Rights was written. But the courts are no longer bound by Jefferson’s “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God,” and they have said so. With regard to our religious freedom, they simply cannot be trusted. And for that judgment we have ample precedent.

New York Gov. Charles Evans Hughes, before he became Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, affirmed 95 years ago that “we are under a Constitution, but the Constitution is what the judges say it is, and the judiciary is the safeguard of our liberty and of our property under the Constitution.”

Actually, Your Honor, the Constitution is the safeguard of our liberty and of our property. But the Supreme Court has been glad to arrogate to itself that august task. In Cooper v. Aaron (1958), a unanimous Court made it clear:
Article VI of the Constitution makes the Constitution the “supreme Law of the Land.” In 1803, Chief Justice Marshall, speaking for a unanimous court, referring to the Constitution as the “fundamental and paramount law of the nation, declared in the notable case of Marbury v. Madison that “it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” This decision declared that basic principle that the federal judiciary is supreme in the exposition of the law of the Constitution, and that principle has ever since been respected by this court in the country as a permanent and indispensable feature of our constitutional system.”
Which brings us to the metaphysical level – or, rather, to the denial of metaphysics altogether. If “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” – that is, the Natural Law – no longer constrain the Court’s powers, what – beyond judicial caprice — is to protect our First Amendment rights? Los Angeles Archbishop José Gomez acknowledges America’s Christian roots, but goes on to observe that “our freedoms are also being eroded as the result of constant agitation from de-Christianizing and secularizing elements in American society.” Unfortunately, those “elements” now dominate our legal system, where “the Dictatorship of Relativism” abounds in the robes of Legal Positivism.

Natural Law Need Not Apply

Legal Positivism rests on the assumption that the law need have no basis in morality. As Notre Dame Professor of Constitutional Law Charles Rice has noted, “Hans Kelsen, the father of legal positivism, observed that Auschwitz and the Soviet Gulags were valid law. He could not criticize them as unjust because justice, he said, is ‘an irrational ideal.’”

Kelsen’s view holds not only for Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, but for America today. During the Senate hearings considering the nomination of Judge Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph Biden repeatedly browbeat the nominee about the dangers of applying the Natural Law in American jurisprudence. “You come before this committee with a philosophy different from that which we have seen in any Supreme Court nominee in the [last] 19 years,” he sniffed. What did Biden find so “different”? Simple: “You are an adherent to the view that the Natural Law should inform the Constitution.” Biden couldn’t have been more clear: appeals to the Natural Law will fail in the Supreme Court.

Senator Patrick Leahy then asserted that the Natural Law is “elastic,” a notion which Biden seconded by alleging that his version of the Natural Law protects abortion rights. But Judge Thomas would not engage the legal issue. “My interest in the whole area was as a political philosophy,” he told Biden.

Biden, Leahy, and Thomas are all Catholics. So is Justice Kennedy, who wrote in 1992 that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” Clearly current jurisprudence has sundered the courts from the true source of justice. They simply cannot be trusted.

Catholic? Or American?

In Cardinal Dolan’s May 12 commencement speech at Catholic University, he exulted “that this university is both Catholic and American, flowing from the most noble ideals of truth and respect for human dignity that are at the heart of our Church and our country.” Indeed, ever since Cardinal Gibbons, American prelates have labored to make Catholics “good Americans.” But today the bishops — longtime supporters, collaborators, and beneficiaries of the federal government — have suddenly awakened to the fact that the government might have filed for divorce.

Clearly, Catholics have every right to demand that the courts respect what Cardinal Dolan’s address called the “essential ingredient in American wisdom and the genius of the American republic … the freedom it allows for religion to flourish.” However, our positivist courts roundly reject the notion that they might have any responsibility to do so. The courts have revised the First Amendment repeatedly over the years, and they are likely to do so again. After all, “the Constitution is what they say it is.”

Is The Truth “Too Hot To Handle”?

What cannot be revised, however, is Humanae Vitae. There, Natural Law and the Teaching and Tradition of the Church combine to illuminate our troubled world with the brilliant, saving light of eternal moral truth. Why hasn’t Cardinal Dolan even mentioned Humanae Vitae, at least en passant, in the current Fortnight of Freedom? Aren’t our freedoms grounded on truth – the Way, the Truth, and the Life? After all, the Truth is still the Truth, whatever the courts say it is.

Cardinal Dolan has candidly admitted why he doesn’t want contraception to be the issue: the bishops, he told the Wall Street Journal in March, haven’t taught Humanae Vitae for 44 years. In essence, he has admitted that, when it comes to sexual morality, our shepherds have abandoned the teachings both of the Magisterium and the Natural Law ever since Vatican II.

“We have gotten gun-shy…in speaking with any amount of cogency on chastity and sexual morality,” he said. The “flashpoint” was Humanae Vitae: “It brought such a tsunami of dissent, departure, disapproval of the Church, that I think most of us—and I’m using the first-person plural intentionally, including myself—kind of subconsciously said, ‘Whoa. We’d better never talk about that, because it’s just too hot to handle.’”

Cardinal Dolan went on to regret that the clerical abuse and cover-up scandals have attenuated even more the authority of our bishops. The scandals “intensified our laryngitis over speaking about issues of chastity and sexual morality, because we almost thought, ‘I’ll blush if I do. . . . After what some priests and some bishops, albeit a tiny minority, have done, how will I have any credibility in speaking on that?’”

Cardinal Dolan proposed no program to reverse this half-century trend.

The laity have every right to know that however weak the voice of our bishops has been on moral matters in our lifetimes, the truth has not been abrogated. And when the law attacks the truth, the decision is simple: lex malla, lex nulla. As Aquinas puts it, “human law is law only by virtue of its accordance with right reason; and thus it is manifest that it flows from the eternal law. And in so far as it deviates from right reason it is called an unjust law; in such case it is no law at all, but rather a species of violence.” (ST I-II 93.3 ad 2)

Avoid contraception? Avoid Humanae Vitae? Abandon Natural Law? If we do, we are left naked before a sterile secular sword wielded by the Dictatorship of Relativism. Moreover, on the practical level, as Mary Eberstadt observes in her penetrating Adam and Eve After the Pill, “contraceptive sex … is the fundamental social fact of our time.”

Which brings to mind: doesn’t Humanae Vitae teach genuine “Social Justice”?

Pope Benedict knows the score. He has repeatedly offered encouragement regarding the Church’s moral teachings to various groups of bishops on the ad limina visits to Rome. “I urge you as Pastors to ensure that the Church’s moral teaching be always presented in its entirety and convincingly defended,” he told a group from the United Kingdom.  To bishops from the United States he said in May, “It is no exaggeration to say that providing young people with a sound education in the faith represents the most urgent internal challenge facing the Catholic community in your country.”

Given the Supreme Court’s decision on Obamacare, it is clear that Catholics cannot put their faith in princes, however highly regarded their station. We are up against the cultural haycutter — Archbishop Gomez is correct: it is not only the Obama Administration, but the entire panoply of the cultural elites that confronts the Church today as never before. Even though the elites constitute a small minority of Americans, their deleterious impact has been so profound that one wonders if it is reversible at all. Whatever those prospects, the Church cannot count on a court that has abandoned metaphysics, the Natural Law, and The Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.

What Is To Be Done?

One cannot blame Cardinal Dolan for pursuing the legal defense of our First Amendment rights. After all, at Catholic University, Dolan proudly hailed the school – and implicitly the church in the United States – as “both Catholic and American.” But if Cardinal Dolan were to firmly plant his feet on the Catholic Truth and the Natural Law, instead of going to the U.S. courts, it would amount to a Declaration of Independence by the American Church from America’s rotting regime. It would also constitute a Declaration of War – in this case, fully justified under the Just War doctrine because the Catholic Church, her members, and her good works have been brutally and mortally attacked.

Such a declaration would be supported by the teaching, tradition, and authority of the Church –not only declaring the ObamaCare Mandate illegitimate, but proclaiming that the American legal system is no longer to be trusted. Clearly, since Engel v. Vitale, Roe v. Wade, and a host of other deleterious Supreme Court decisions, any sane person knows that the Supreme Court, like Biden and Leahy, has only contempt for the Natural Law. But for the Church formally to announce that fact as the basis for its refusal to obey a lex malla would bring on certain retaliation, abuse, and even persecution, driven by the cultural and political elites whose power relies on the progressive degeneration of our culture and the corruption of our politics.

Cardinal James Francis Stafford has written that 1968 represents America’s “suicide attempt” – most notably evidenced within the Church by the rebellion against Humanae Vitae. What Cardinal Dolan has called the “laryngitis” of our shepherds has led to a laity that is adrift, suffocating in a culture of sin and swill. They are longing to breathe free, energized by the truth – as Pope Benedict insists, all of it. Ignoring Humane Vitae has brought the Church to the brink of suicide, yet that document is precisely the life preserver we have been longing for.

The perils of positivist law should be posted with a “no trespassing” sign when it comes to eternal truths. The Catholic Church should tell the U.S. government what religious liberty is, not the other way around.

Today our bishops are united as never before, and so are the faithful. Our bishops have our prayers, our attention, and our support. This very day the American Church is more energetic than it has been for decades.

Enough of the “laryngitis”! Now is the time to teach Humanae Vitae!

Casey: Enduring, Entrenched, Intentionally Evil Egregious Error - by Michael Stokes Paulsen

Casey is not a sound exposition of the Constitution, and its authority should be repudiated by all other actors in our constitutional system The second in a two-part series on the deadly significance of Planned Parenthood v. Casey
The Supreme Court has done a fair number of truly awful things in its history, falsely blaming them on the Constitution: creating a constitutional property right to slavery and extending it into new territories (Dred Scott, 1857); gutting the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection of the laws by warmly embracing state racial segregation (Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896); discrimination against women (Bradwell v. Illinois, 1873), and eugenic sterilization of the disabled (Buck v. Bell, 1927); declining to disturb a state-wide scheme to deprive blacks of the right to vote (Giles v. Harris, 1903); ratifying Franklin Roosevelt’s military internment of innocent Japanese-American civilians during World War II (Korematsu v. United States, 1944); ordering a religious college to cease teaching blacks and whites together (Berea College v. Kentucky, 1908); upholding the expulsion from school of children whose religious beliefs forbade them to salute the flag (Minersville School District v. Gobitis, 1940); and affirming the criminal conviction and incarceration of a prominent former presidential candidate for making an anti-war speech (Debs v. United States, 1919), to name just a few of the most infamous.

But of all the atrocious things the Court has done in the name of the Constitution, none is worse than Planned Parenthood v. Casey, decided twenty years ago today. Casey is the worst Supreme Court constitutional decision of all time.

Yesterday, I discussed Casey’s extraordinary significance—for abortion law specifically, for its view of judicial power generally, for its embrace and practice of stare decisis as a tool of judicial power, and for its acceptance of substantive due process. Today, I discuss Casey’s sheer atrocity. For in every respect that Casey is significant, it is cruelly and horribly wrong.

What Makes a Supreme Constitutional Atrocity?

My criteria are simple and straightforward. A Supreme Court decision interpreting the Constitution is atrocious to the extent it is both legally wrong and produces great human harm; and it is worse yet where intentionally wrong and knowingly harmful and where it tends to generate or perpetuate further wrongs and harms.

A decision is legally wrong when it reaches a result not fairly attributable to a rule of law supplied by the text, structure, and history of the Constitution. And a wrong decision is harmful where it produces evil, injurious consequences to innocent human beings—death, oppression, enslavement, deprivation of fundamental human rights, internment, incarceration, deprivation of liberty, misery, discrimination, or indignity.

Both legal error and great harm must be present for a judicial decision to be truly atrocious. A right constitutional decision—one faithful to the text, structure, and historical understanding of the document—might sometimes yield harmful human consequences if the Constitution itself permits such consequences and the people’s democratic representatives enact bad (but not unconstitutional) laws. The fault then lies with the Constitution, or the representatives, or the people, not with the court rendering the decision. Conversely, not all wrong judicial decisions inflict great human harm; some are inconsequential, some have a short shelf life, and some might even produce “good” results (aside from the problem of legal error itself).

If a legally wrong decision is made willfully and intentionally, and its harm is known, the decision is all the worse. As the saying goes, even a dog knows the difference between being tripped over and being kicked. Dred Scott, for example, displays a crafty, deliberate, manipulative, insidious intention to reach a predetermined result of entrenching and extending slavery and de-legitimizing antislavery politics. Dred Scott was a premeditated deed of willful calculation, designed to achieve a clear moral wrong, cloaked in the veneer of legal respectability. Roe v. Wade, in contrast, for all its legal idiocy, was more an act of supreme judicial incompetence by men who seem to have thought that what courts do is make social policy, and who seem neither to have appreciated the moral stakes of abortion nor to have understood what they actually held with respect to it. They may even have believed their decision to be a balanced compromise.

Finally, an egregious decision is even worse to the extent it tends to perpetuate, entrench, or generate further legal wrongs. A horrid bump in the constitutional road is still a horrid bump, but if it is easily corrected, quickly overruled, or readily ignored, it might be confined to that single case. A wrong that begets more wrongs, and that strives to make itself invulnerable to correction, is all the worse.

The search is thus for error, egregious error, evil egregious error, intentionally evil egregious error, and enduring, entrenched, intentionally evil egregious error. And on these criteria, Casey is the Supreme Court’s worst constitutional decision of all time, beating out even Dred Scott and Roe v. Wade for that dishonor.

Casey’s Grave Legal and Moral Wrongness 

The decision in Casey is as legally wrong as Roe, unless somehow repeating wrongs makes them rights. That was Casey’s insidious argument, of course—an illogical sophism and, as deployed by the Court, a dishonest one. That makes Casey even more wrong than Roe. Casey’s harmful and evil effects have, as noted yesterday, now outrun Roe in raw years and raw numbers of human lives killed under its regime. Unless one thinks the right to abortion on demand a good and wonderful thing, the magnitude of human harm wreaked by Casey is greater than any other decision in history, Roe included: the legal warrant for a society’s deliberate killing of thirty million human lives. Casey stands to last longer yet; its whole argument is for entrenchment of the right to abortion—that a grave judicial wrong, once boldly ventured, should, by virtue of that fact, stand in perpetuity.

Casey’s Intentional Embrace of Presumed Error and Known Harm

Casey, more than Roe—and much more like Dred Scott—was intentional, carefully considered (one is inclined to say premeditated), and made with full awareness of both its constitutional weakness and its deadly human costs. Reading the joint opinion in Casey, one cannot help but detect an acute consciousness of guilt on the part of at least several of the justices comprising the majority, each of whose votes was necessary to the result. The opinion is careful to note, repeatedly, and somewhat awkwardly, that not all in the majority were necessarily in agreement with Roe. Indeed, Justice O’Connor and Justice Kennedy both flipped from previously stated positions.

One cannot at all forgive the Casey Court, as one might the justices who rendered Roe, on the theory that they knew not what they were doing. The Court in Casey knew exactly what it was doing. It knew the jurisprudential stakes; it knew the moral arguments; it knew the reality of what abortion was and what abortion does. The justices did what they did with full knowledge of the consequences, with full awareness that the claimed right to abortion lacked any legitimate legal basis, and with full appreciation that the deaths of millions of unborn human children hung on their decision. For some of them, it is clear that their votes to reaffirm and extend Roe were also cast against their own moral consciences.

And they did it anyway. They did it for reasons of vanity, perception, power, and cowardice, cast as judicial duty. They did it because they thought more people, or more of the right people, would think better of them if they did what they thought wrong, rather than right.

This makes Casey the most reprehensible act of judicial betrayal of the Constitution, of judicial duty, and of judicial morality, in our nation’s history. It is hard to escape the judgment that, for a justice who believed that Roe was legally and morally wrong nonetheless deliberately to reaffirm it, on the pretense that stare decisis or protection of judicial power required it, is to act in deliberate, knowing complicity with evil.

Casey’s Perpetuation, Entrenchment, and Spawning of Ongoing Wrongs and Harms 

Casey also seeks to perpetuate its errors and harms—to entrench abortion on demand and de-legitimize criticism of the Court and its abortion cases. The Court sought to leverage its power forward in time, suppress future opposition, and end the debate about legalizing abortion forever. In this respect, too, Casey is much like Dred Scott. In substance and rhetoric, the opinion is distressingly authoritarian. Casey’s goal was to make Roe harder, if not impossible, to overrule and to make it harder to question the authority of the Court to make social policy. Casey was the taken-as-given starting point for the partial-birth abortion decisions of 2000 and 2007 (Carhart I & II), the first of which struck down a state law, and the second of which upheld a federal law, banning abortion by the method of inducing birth and puncturing the skull during a partial live-birth delivery, but each of which presumed an unqualified “right” to obtain an abortion at any stage of pregnancy by some method or other. Casey also accounts in large measure for the Court’s acceptance of substantive-due-process judicial lawmaking in other areas of controversy, like same-sex sexual relations (Lawrence v. Texas, 2003) and assisted suicide (Washington v. Glucksberg, 1997). So long as it stands, Casey will continue to generate further wrongs and obstruct their correction.

Casey’s Future: The Moral Imperative of Principled Resistance

Will Casey fall in our lifetimes? The outlook is not especially rosy. After twenty years, only one justice in Casey’s majority, Justice Kennedy, remains on the Court. Yet the decision remains as secure as ever. Accounting for swaps, four new pro-Casey justices (Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan) have replaced the departed four members of Casey’s majority (Blackmun, Stevens, O’Connor, and Souter). Likewise, there remain four likely votes against Casey—two Casey dissenters (Scalia and Thomas), and two new justices (Roberts and Alito), whose views probably track closely those of Casey’s two other dissenters (Rehnquist and White, both of whom had dissented in Roe in 1973). The lineup is thus still 5-4, in favor of Casey. There is, moreover, a limit to how much optimism may be reposed in the prospect of future judicial appointments: it assumes favorable results in politics (in the presidency and Senate), favorable opportunities for favorable appointments, favorable results in politics again (in the confirmation process), favorable occasions for reversing Roe and Casey, and then favorable judicial politics and character. The contingencies are daunting. (Many had, with reason, counted seven probable votes to overrule Roe when Casey came before the Court, including O’Connor, Kennedy, and Souter, following twelve years of pro-life presidents appointing five new members to the Court.)

It is therefore important to fundamentally de-legitimize the Casey decision, to confront it head-on and deny its authority as constitutional law, and further, to challenge directly and undermine the pretensions to unquestionable authority over the Constitution made by the Court that rendered it. If Roe and Casey are not sound expositions of the Constitution, their authority should be repudiated by all other actors in our constitutional system. It is the shared, sworn duty of the other branches of government to interpret the Constitution—it is not the province of the Court alone—and it is their duty to check, and resist, such egregious judicial violations of the Constitution. Roe and Casey should be declared unconstitutional, forthrightly and unequivocally, and declared therefore to be of no legitimate authority. The decisions should be resisted with all the legitimate constitutional powers at the disposal of the president, the Congress, the lower courts, state officials, voters, jurors, and citizens.

This requires exploding the myth of judicial supremacy that has so infected our constitutional discourse. The Constitution specifies constitutional supremacy, not judicial supremacy; it assigns supreme interpretive authority to no one branch or institution of government. Just as Lincoln denounced Dred Scott and declared that it could not bind the nation, Casey must be denounced and declared not to be binding law.

To achieve this aim, it is essential simultaneously to restore the Supreme Court’s legitimacy by replacing pro-Casey justices with those who reject the case. (It goes without saying that new Casey-collaborator judicial nominees should be rejected.) Casey’s rejection should be the sine qua non of judicial respectability—a legitimate litmus test for all further judicial appointments. A broad range of substantive views, on a broad range of issues, may be tolerable and even desirable among judges, as a general matter. But support of Roe and Casey should be viewed as outside the range of reasonable disagreement about the meaning of the Constitution, just as Dred Scott and Plessy are now properly so viewed.

Almost all of the Supreme Court’s greatest atrocities eventually have come to be rejected, one way or another—Dred Scott, Plessy, Lochner, Korematsu, Debs, and Gobitis. This in itself is somewhat encouraging. Atrocious decisions may endure for a generation or more, but our constitutional system has a way, usually, of working itself pure. Planned Parenthood v. Casey is at the top of the list of all-time constitutional atrocities. At twenty, Casey has lived too long a life and caused too many millions of deaths. Casey belongs on the pile of cases whose names are now synonymous with judicial infamy.

Michael Stokes Paulsen is University Chair and Professor of Law at the University of St. Thomas, in Minneapolis, and co-director of its Pro-Life Advocacy Center (PLACE). This two-part series was adapted from a law review article published in the Notre Dame Law Review, titled “The Worst Constitutional Decision of All Time.”

Homilia de Bento XVI na Solenidade de S. Pedro e S. Paulo

Venerados Cardeais,
Amados Irmãos no Episcopado e no Sacerdócio,
Queridos irmãos e irmãs!

Reunimo-nos à volta do altar para celebrar solenemente os Apóstolos São Pedro e São Paulo, Padroeiros principais da Igreja de Roma. Temos connosco os Arcebispos Metropolitas nomeados durante os últimos doze meses, que acabaram de receber o pálio: a eles dirijo, de modo especial e afectuoso, a minha saudação. E, enviada por Sua Santidade Bartolomeu I, está presente também uma eminente Delegação do Patriarcado Ecuménico de Constantinopla, que acolho com gratidão fraterna e cordial. Em espírito ecuménico, tenho o prazer de saudar, e agradecer pela sua participação, «The Choir of Westminster Abbey», que anima a Liturgia juntamente com a Capela Sistina. Saúdo também os Senhores Embaixadores e as Autoridades civis: a todos agradeço pela presença e a oração.

À frente da Basílica de São Pedro, como todos bem sabem, estão colocadas duas estátuas imponentes dos Apóstolos Pedro e Paulo, facilmente identificáveis pelas respectivas prerrogativas: as chaves na mão de Pedro e a espada na mão de Paulo. Também na entrada principal da Basílica de São Paulo Extra-muros, estão conjuntamente representadas cenas da vida e do martírio destas duas colunas da Igreja. Desde sempre a tradição cristã tem considerado São Pedro e São Paulo inseparáveis: na verdade, juntos, representam todo o Evangelho de Cristo. Mas, a sua ligação como irmãos na fé adquiriu um significado particular em Roma. De facto, a comunidade cristã desta Cidade viu neles uma espécie de antítese dos mitológicos Rómulo e Remo, o par de irmãos a quem se atribui a fundação de Roma. E poder-se-ia, continuando em tema de fraternidade, pensar ainda noutro paralelismo antitético formado com o primeiro par bíblico de irmãos: mas, enquanto nestes vemos o efeito do pecado pelo qual Caim mata Abel, Pedro e Paulo, apesar de ser humanamente bastante diferentes e não obstante os conflitos que não faltaram no seu mútuo relacionamento, realizaram um modo novo e autenticamente evangélico de ser irmãos, tornado possível precisamente pela graça do Evangelho de Cristo que neles operava. Só o seguimento de Cristo conduz a uma nova fraternidade: esta é, para cada um de nós, a primeira e fundamental mensagem da Solenidade de hoje, cuja importância se reflecte também na busca da plena comunhão, à qual anelam o Patriarca Ecuménico e o Bispo de Roma, bem como todos os cristãos.

Na passagem do Evangelho de São Mateus que acabamos de ouvir, Pedro faz a sua confissão de fé em Jesus, reconhecendo-O como Messias e Filho de Deus; fá-lo também em nome dos outros apóstolos. Em resposta, o Senhor revela-lhe a missão que pretende confiar-lhe, ou seja, a de ser a «pedra», a «rocha», o fundamento visível sobre o qual está construído todo o edifício espiritual da Igreja (cf. Mt 16, 16-19). Mas, de que modo Pedro é a rocha? Como deve realizar esta prerrogativa, que naturalmente não recebeu para si mesmo? A narração do evangelista Mateus começa por nos dizer que o reconhecimento da identidade de Jesus proferido por Simão, em nome dos Doze, não provém «da carne e do sangue», isto é, das suas capacidades humanas, mas de uma revelação especial de Deus Pai. Caso diverso se verifica logo a seguir, quando Jesus prediz a sua paixão, morte e ressurreição; então Simão Pedro reage precisamente com o impeto «da carne e do sangue»: «Começou a repreender o Senhor, dizendo: (...) Isso nunca Te há-de acontecer!» (16, 22). Jesus, por sua vez, replicou-lhe: «Vai-te daqui, Satanás! Tu és para Mim uma ocasião de escândalo...» (16, 23). O discípulo que, por dom de Deus, pode tornar-se uma rocha firme, surge aqui como ele é na sua fraqueza humana: uma pedra na estrada, uma pedra onde se pode tropeçar (em grego, skandalon). Por aqui, se vê claramente a tensão que existe entre o dom que provém do Senhor e as capacidades humanas; e aparece de alguma forma antecipado, nesta cena de Jesus com Simão Pedro, o drama da história do próprio Papado, caracterizada precisamente pela presença conjunta destes dois elementos: graças à luz e força que provêm do Alto, o Papado constitui o fundamento da Igreja peregrina no tempo, mas, ao longo dos séculos assoma também a fraqueza dos homens, que só a abertura à acção de Deus pode transformar.

E no Evangelho de hoje sobressai, forte e clara, a promessa de Jesus: «as portas do inferno», isto é, as forças do mal, «non praevalebunt», não conseguirão levar a melhor. Vem à mente a narração da vocação do profeta Jeremias, a quem o Senhor diz ao confiar-lhe a missão: «Eis que hoje te estabeleço como cidade fortificada, como coluna de ferro e muralha de bronze, diante de todo este país, dos reis de Judá e de seus chefes, dos sacerdotes e do povo da terra. Far-te-ão guerra, mas não hão-de vencer - non praevalebunt -, porque Eu estou contigo para te salvar» (Jr 1, 18-19). Na realidade, a promessa que Jesus faz a Pedro é ainda maior do que as promessas feitas aos profetas antigos: de facto, estes encontravam-se ameaçados por inimigos somente humanos, enquanto Pedro terá de ser defendido das «portas do inferno», do poder destrutivo do mal. Jeremias recebe uma promessa que diz respeito à sua pessoa e ministério profético, enquanto Pedro recebe garantias relativamente ao futuro da Igreja, da nova comunidade fundada por Jesus Cristo e que se prolonga para além da existência pessoal do próprio Pedro, ou seja, por todos os tempos.

Detenhamo-nos agora no símbolo das chaves, de que nos fala o Evangelho. Ecoa nele o oráculo do profeta Isaías a Eliaquim, de quem se diz: «Porei sobre os seus ombros a chave do palácio de David; o que ele abrir, ninguém fechará; o que ele fechar, ninguém abrirá» (Is 22, 22). A chave representa a autoridade sobre a casa de David. Entretanto, no Evangelho, há outra palavra de Jesus, mas dirigida aos escribas e fariseus, censurando-os por terem fechado aos homens o Reino dos Céus (cf. Mt 23, 13). Também este dito nos ajuda a compreender a promessa feita a Pedro: como fiel administrador da mensagem de Cristo, compete-lhe abrir a porta do Reino dos Céus e decidir se alguém será aí acolhido ou rejeitado (cf. Ap 3, 7). As duas imagens – a das chaves e a de ligar e desligar – possuem significado semelhante e reforçam-se mutuamente. A expressão «ligar e desligar» pertencia à linguagem rabínica, aplicando-se tanto no contexto das decisões doutrinais como no do poder disciplinar, ou seja, a faculdade de infligir ou levantar a excomunhão. O paralelismo «na terra (...) nos Céus» assegura que as decisões de Pedro, no exercício desta sua função eclesial, têm valor também diante de Deus.

No capítulo 18 do Evangelho de Mateus, consagrado à vida da comunidade eclesial, encontramos outro dito de Jesus dirigido aos discípulos: «Em verdade vos digo: Tudo o que ligardes na terra será ligado no Céu, e tudo o que desligardes na terra será desligado no Céu» (Mt 18, 18). E na narração da aparição de Cristo ressuscitado aos Apóstolos na tarde da Páscoa, São João refere esta palavra do Senhor: «Recebei o Espírito Santo. Àqueles a quem perdoardes os pecados, ficarão perdoados; àqueles a quem os retiverdes, ficarão retidos» (Jo 20, 22-23). À luz destes paralelismos, é claro que a autoridade de «desligar e ligar» consiste no poder de perdoar os pecados. E esta graça, que despoja da sua energia as forças do caos e do mal, está no coração do mistério e do ministério da Igreja. A Igreja não é uma comunidade de seres perfeitos, mas de pecadores que se devem reconhecer necessitados do amor de Deus, necessitados de ser purificados através da Cruz de Jesus Cristo. Os ditos de Jesus sobre a autoridade de Pedro e dos Apóstolos deixam transparecer precisamente que o poder de Deus é o amor: o amor que irradia a sua luz a partir do Calvário. Assim podemos compreender também por que motivo, na narração evangélica, à confissão de fé de Pedro se segue imediatamente o primeiro anúncio da paixão: na verdade, foi com a sua própria morte que Jesus venceu as forças do inferno; com o seu sangue, Ele derramou sobre o mundo uma torrente imensa de misericórdia, que irriga, com as suas águas salutares, a humanidade inteira.

Queridos irmãos, como recordei no princípio, a iconografia tradicional apresenta São Paulo com a espada, e sabemos que esta representa o instrumento do seu martírio. Mas, repassando os escritos do Apóstolo dos Gentios, descobrimos que a imagem da espada se refere a toda a sua missão de evangelizador. Por exemplo, quando já sentia aproximar-se a morte, escreve a Timóteo: «Combati o bom combate» (2 Tm 4, 7); aqui não se trata seguramente do combate de um comandante, mas daquele de um arauto da Palavra de Deus, fiel a Cristo e à sua Igreja, por quem se consumou totalmente. Por isso mesmo, o Senhor lhe deu a coroa de glória e colocou-o, juntamente com Pedro, como coluna no edifício espiritual da Igreja.

Amados Metropolitas, o pálio, que vos entreguei, recordar-vos-á sempre que estais constituídos no e para o grande mistério de comunhão que é a Igreja, edifício espiritual construído sobre Cristo como pedra angular e, na sua dimensão terrena e histórica, sobre a rocha de Pedro. Animados por esta certeza, sintamo-nos todos juntos colaboradores da verdade, que – como sabemos – é una e «sinfónica», exigindo de cada um de nós e das nossas comunidades o esforço contínuo de conversão ao único Senhor na graça de um único Espírito. Que nos guie e acompanhe sempre no caminho da fé e da caridade, a Santa Mãe de Deus. Rainha dos Apóstolos, rogai por nós!

terça-feira, 26 de junho de 2012

Annie Lobert, ex-prostituta, rescata chicas en Las Vegas con una oración contra el demonio

"Eres preciosa y Jesús te quiere". Con estas palabras, Annie Lobert se acerca a las prostitutas de Las Vegas. Ella es ex-prostituta, y junto a otras ex-prostitutas recorre la noche para rescatar a las mujeres del tráfico sexual.

"Les digo eso nada más verlas porque necesitan saber que son valiosas, que son bellas y que hay alguien que las ama incondicionalmente", explica.

Su experiencia la impulsó en 2005 a crear Hooker for Jesus, una organización cristiana que lucha contra la explotación sexual, la pornografía y la industria del sexo. Fue "trabajadora del sexo" durante 16 años: primero en Minneapolis, Minnesota, Hawaii y los once últimos, y más traumáticos, en Las Vegas.

Ahora su misión, tal y como ella describe, "es salvar el alma de las mujeres que venden su cuerpo" en la oportunamente llamada Sin City (Ciudad del Pecado).

Abusada y nunca amada
La historia de autodestrucción de Annie se inicia en su infancia. Fue víctima de abusos sexuales con 8 años. Ella misma reconoce además que nunca se sintió amada y que esa circunstancia mermó su autoestima: “Sólo pensaba en qué Dios estaría enfadado conmigo. Le imaginaba con un enorme martillo esperando el momento de aplastarme con él si hacía algo mal”.

A los 18 años perdió la virginidad con un chico que le rompió el corazón. Entonces despertó su lado rebelde y se lanzó a los brazos de una vida de promiscuidad y a la “experimentación”. Durante unas vacaciones con una amiga en Hawaii vendió por primera vez su cuerpo por dinero.

Soñando con Pretty Woman
Al regresar a su ciudad, abandonó su trabajo y se introdujo en el mundo de la prostitución de lujo. Primero se consideraba "bailarina exótica" y "acompañante de lujo". Después tuvo que aceptar encargos más y más exigentes. La seducción del dinero le hizo irse hasta Las Vegas, donde pensó que ganaría más: “Eran miles de dólares cada noche; noches incluso de más de 10.000. En Las Vegas viví la ilusión del glamour, las fiestas y el dinero. No podía resistirme a la luz de los casinos y entrar para ver si encontraba a algún cliente muy rico que me rescatara. Todas soñamos con ser Julia Roberts en Pretty Woman”.

Durante los once años que ejerció como prostituta en Las Vegas llenó su vida con fiestas, gente famosa, viajes, hombres y caros objetos materiales pero, como dice Annie, “al final pierdes tu alma en todo este proceso. Vivir en el mundo de Las Vegas me hizo hacer cosas que no hubiera hecho en cualquier otra circunstancia”.

Violencia y drogas y vacío interior
La primera vez que invocó a Jesucristo fue cuando estuvo a punto de ser asesinada por su “chulo”. Al enterarse de que Annie quería dejar la prostitución, la encerró en el maletero de su coche y la amenazó con quemarla en el desierto. Su chulo la liberó pero unos meses después la secuestró y le propinó una paliza en el desierto.

Ese no fue el peor día para Annie: al poco tiempo fue diagnosticada de linfoma. Sin embargo, no abandonó la prostitución porque tenía facturas médicas que pagar. Sumida en una gran depresión por la muerte de varios familiares próximos, su enfermedad y el creciente deseo de abandonar esa vida sin poder hacerlo, Annie entró en el infierno de las drogas: “Es increíble, pero después de curarme, comencé a consumir drogas. Tenía el corazón roto, ninguna voluntad de seguir luchando y sufría por el continuo abuso verbal, físico y sexual que sufría siendo una prostituta de lujo”.

Xanax, valium, cocaína, alcohol y ludopatía... Nada llenaba su vacío interior y entonces probó con diferentes formas de “religiosidad”: wicca, vampirismo, masonería, budismo, new age... todo ello le provocó un desorden por estrés postraumático.

Además, como muchas otras prostitutas, desarrolló una adicción o dependencia hacia el mismo chulo que le pegaba. Estaba perdidamente enamorada, enganchada, hacia la misma persona que la apalizaba y vendía.

Los estudios que maneja su asociación dice que casi 7 de cada 10 mujeres que trabajan en la industria del sexo sufren este estrés postraumático: enfermedad, ansiedad, depresión, insomnios, pesadillas, pérdidas de memoria, anorexia, bulimia, depresión clínica...todos estos eran los síntomas de Annie tras once años trabajando en la industria del sexo en Las Vegas.

Sobrevivir a la sobredosis
Una noche de 2003 casi murió por sobredosis: “Sentía un dolor horrible en mi pecho. Estaba esperando ver las llamas del infierno y le pedí a Jesús que, si me salvaba, le hablaría al mundo entero de Él. Y Jesús vino a rescatarme”.

Y así lo hizo cuando se recuperó. Annie comenzó a usar su dolorosa experiencia en ayudar a personas explotadas sexualmente en Las Vegas.

“Mi pasión es ayudar a prostitutas, proxenetas, strippers y a cualquiera que se haya visto en las redes de la explotación sexual. Quiero ayudarles a ver que hay una vida real esperándoles fuera de la industria del sexo. Si necesitan ayuda para escapar de este estilo de vida, aquí estoy yo para ayudar, no para juzgar”.

Verdades claras
Al mundo y a los clientes les recuerda lo que no quieren pensar: "Las mujeres no son robots, no disfrutan de los actos sexuales, ni de la esclavitud de vender su cuerpo. Tenemos sentimientos y no los podemos eliminar mientras somos prostitutas o strippers. Nos duele, sangramos, lloramos, somos hermanas, madres, hijas, primas, sobrinas, niñas pequeñas".

A las mujeres atrapadas en el negocio les propone un cambio radical, y para eso necesitan a Jesús. Les dice: "Dios te ama a ti, sí, a ti, a esa persona que vive derrotada", les dice. "No dejes que el demonio te robe la alegría más tiempo. Pide a Jesús que entre en tu corazón y observa cómo puede cambiar tu vida radicalmente. ¿Sabías que Jesús murió para que fueses libre? ¿Quieres salir de la celda de tu mente? Reza esta oración".

La oración busca romper el círculo de esclavitud en el que vive la mujer:

"Jesús, creo que eres el Hijo de Dios. Ven a vivir a mi corazón vacío. Manda tu Espíritu Santo a llenarme con tu paz, pasión y amor. Cámbiame completamente, de dentro afuera. Que pueda caminar en el destino perfecto que tienes para mí. Enseñame a vivir mi nueva vida. Abre mis ojos a tu verdad. Rompe las mentiras que el demonio ha puesto en mi mente. En ti confío, oh Señor. Gracias, Jesús. Amén."

El poder del perdón
¿Y después? Después viene el reto de perdonarse una misma y perdonar a los enemigos. Annie lo explica: "Si Jesús podía perdonarme, ¿no podía perdonarme yo misma también? Y me perdoné por todas las cosas horribles que había hecho y el yugo de la atadura y la culpa se quitó de mi espalda".

También perdonó a su chulo, "y a todos los demás que me ofendieron. Rezo por mi chulo cada día y sé que Dios tiene un plan grande para él. ¡Perdona y serás libre!"

Patriarca de Venecia: “Una pastoral pelagiana y una Iglesia autorreferencial: peligros siempre actuales”

Presentamos nuestra traducción de una interesante entrevista que el nuevo Patriarca de Venecia, Mons. Francesco Moraglia, ha concedido a la revista 30Giorni.

“No seremos capaces de dar respuestas adecuadas sin una nueva acogida del don de la Gracia; no sabremos conquistar a los hombres para el Evangelio a no ser que nosotros mismos seamos los primeros en volver a una profunda experiencia de Dios”. Así ha hablado Benedicto XVI a los obispos italianos reunidos en asamblea plenaria, el pasado 24 de mayo. Mientras se acerca el Año de la Fe, el Sucesor de Pedro no pierde ocasión de sugerir lo único que parece importarle fuertemente. Son tiempos confusos, que sin embargo deben mirarse con “una mirada de gratitud por el crecimiento del grano de trigo incluso en un terreno que se presenta a menudo árido”. Tiempos en que también la actualidad eclesiástica parece hacer más evidentes y luminosas las palabras de Jesús: “Sin mí nada podéis hacer” (Jn. 15, 5). “Yo estoy con vosotros todos los días hasta el fin del mundo” (Mt. 28, 20). En este marco monseñor Francesco Moraglia ha vivido los primeros pasos de su ministerio como nuevo Patriarca de Venecia. Sus respuestas, en la siguiente entrevista, son una ayuda sencilla para vivir como tiempo propicio el inminente Año de la Fe. Despejando el campo de cualquier riesgo de “auto-ocupación” eclesial.
Benedicto XVI, durante su viaje a Portugal, había dicho: “Con frecuencia nos preocupamos afanosamente por las consecuencias sociales, culturales y políticas de la fe, dando por descontado que hay fe, lo cual, lamentablemente, es cada vez menos realista”. Luego ha convocado un Año de la Fe. ¿Qué ha querido sugerir de este modo el Papa?

Convocando el Año de la Fe, el Santo Padre ha querido indica lo que desde siempre – por lo tanto, también hoy – es la realidad fundante de la vida del creyente y de la Iglesia: la fe. Es precisamente la concepción que se tiene de la fe la que determina el consiguiente modo de entender el cristianismo. Y dado que la fe es el inicio de la vida cristiana, entonces, vale para la fe lo que el evangelista Marcos dice a propósito de la parábola del sembrador: si no comprendéis esta, ¿cómo podréis entender todas las otras parábolas? En pocas palabras: según la idea que tenemos de la fe se origina y se despliega un tipo de cristianismo u otro.
Los periódicos escriben: este Año sirve para “revitalizar” la fe. ¿Pero esto está en nuestro poder? ¿Somos nosotros – la Iglesia, el Papa o los fieles – los artífices de nuestra fe?

La Iglesia, el Papa, los fieles, como también los teólogos, no están en el origen del acto de fe y de la vida del creyente. Por eso debemos prestar atención a nuestro modo de hablar. En el ámbito humano y eclesial, el lenguaje reviste una importancia fundamental. Ahora bien, hablar de la Iglesia sólo o principalmente en términos de programación, como también reducir la evangelización a una cuestión de lenguaje, lleva inevitablemente a pensar que, finalmente, son los hombres los que están al comienzo de la fe. Así todo es reducido a una operación humana. Pero esto – pensándolo bien – es la transposición, en términos pastorales, del pensamiento de Pelagio; en mi opinión, hoy, más que nunca, debe resonar el nombre de Agustín, a cuya escuela todos, pastores y fieles, debemos volver. Para volver a su pregunta: la Iglesia, el Papa y los fieles pueden – propiamente hablando – revitalizar la fe, sobre todo, poniéndola con renovada fuerza en el centro de la vida eclesial y proponiéndola como método de vida, como lo más importante del cristiano.
¿Cómo comienza la fe? ¿Puede ser el resultado de un plan educativo que haga surgir el sentido religioso del hombre?

La fe, siendo el término de la gracia, ¡es puro don! No quisiera, de hecho, que, sobre todo en el contexto actual, suavizando el vigor de esta afirmación se terminase – como ya he dicho – por calificar la fe en términos demasiado humanos. Ciertamente, la expresión “la fe es pura gracia” debe entenderse en el sentido de que la fe siempre se nos ofrece en modo humano, es decir, interpelando nuestra libertad y nunca prescindiendo de ella como de nuestra responsabilidad.
¿Cómo se mantiene, se nutre y crece la fe? ¿Cómo no se pierde? ¿Es cuestión de tenacidad?

La fe se mantiene sencillamente viviéndola en lo cotidiano en compañía de la Iglesia; día tras día, por lo tanto, se nutre y crece perteneciendo al mundo de la fe y renovando cada día la opción de la fe. En otras palabras, dejándose llevar por la fe y recordando que – en lo concreto de la vida – al final, para el cristiano, todo es don. Ciertamente descubrirse creatura y alegrarse de serlo, percibirse en las propias personas y en la propia historia como parte de un todo, de un proyecto que siempre nos precede y acompaña, esta es, podemos decir, la gracia en obra. Me parece particularmente eficaz la expresión usada por Benedicto XVI en Porta Fidei: “La fe crece cuando es vivida como experiencia de un amor recibido y cuando es comunicada como experiencia de gracia y de alegría…”.
Cuando se habla de la fe, las referencias al Espíritu, a la Gracia, a Jesús, a veces parecen como fórmulas rituales, premisas obligatorias de la “jerga” eclesial, para luego pasar al “discurso real” donde el acento está puesto en la estrategia, en la fórmula a adoptar, en el plan educativo confiado a nosotros.

¡A veces sucede también que estas referencias están casi totalmente ausentes del lenguaje de quien se profesa cristiano! Así se descuidan los fundamentos de la vida bautismal. Esto es todavía más grave si pensamos que el lenguaje es la máxima forma expresiva de la cultura de una persona: en cierta catequesis, por ejemplo, se ha pasado de la confesión de Jesús salvador, a Jesús entendido como maestro, luego amigo, finalmente como fuerza espiritual. Pero si la fe, que en la vida de la persona y de la Iglesia es esencialmente don y realización, es disminuida a esta dimensión, y todo tiende a ser programación pastoral y construcción humana, deteniendo al Espíritu en opciones organizativas, entonces también la salvación se convierte en un hecho de pura proyección teológica y organización pastoral. Los ejemplos se pueden multiplicar, aquí me limito a indicar uno del ámbito celebrativo litúrgico: el hiper-activismo creativo y un cierto protagonismo frente a la asamblea.
En muchos discursos, la fe es identificada “e contrario”, como si su afirmación fuese sobre todo una respuesta a tendencias y corrientes culturales de la modernidad en que vivimos. ¿Qué piensa de esta modalidad de acercamiento? ¿La fe tiene como primer movimiento expresivo la refutación cultural de la no- fe?

Sí, es cierto, el riesgo indicado existe realmente. La fe, antes que nada, debe ser fiel a sí misma, es decir, debe decir a Jesucristo, decirlo bien, decirlo a todos, decirlo de modo comprensible y partiendo – como enseña la Dei Verbum – de la Palabra de Dios transmitida por la Iglesia. La crítica que se dirigía a cierta “manualística” coincidía precisamente con el dejarse llevar por determinadas “cuestiones” que se querían refutar terminando, sin embargo, por reducir o incluso distorsionar, de manera inaceptable, las verdades de fe que, de por sí, se querían anunciar.
Concretamente, para aprovechar la ocasión del Año fe la Fe, ¿qué hay que hacer? ¿Emprender iniciativas? ¿Hacer discursos?

La fe es respuesta a una persona – a la persona de Jesucristo -; entonces los discursos, las conferencias, los congresos, por sí solos son todavía insuficientes frente a la realidad humano-divina de la fe. Serían suficientes si la fe se colocase, únicamente, en el plano humano, si fuese una simple opción ética o una tesis filosófica. La fe, en cambio, pide ser acogida y vivida en su realidad sacramental, es decir, realidad humana y divina. Estoy convencido, luego, por dar un ejemplo, de que una más intensa participación y cuidada educación a la celebración litúrgica, por parte del pueblo de Dios – pastores y fieles -, en vistas de una renovada vida de caridad hacia Dios y el prójimo, es una propuesta oportuna, un correcto punto de partida, en vista del Año de la Fe. Se trata, lo repito, de involucrar a toda la comunidad eclesial en el evento de la Pascua – muerte/resurrección – de Cristo; de este modo somos conducidos al centro del evento salvífico que sólo puede ser acogido en la fe; el corazón del acto eucarístico se caracteriza, de hecho, como mysterium fidei.
Si la fe es un don de gracia, al comienzo y en cada paso del camino, ¿qué implica esto para la Iglesia, para su forma y para sus dinámicas?

Implica innumerables cosas. Indico una que, sin embargo, pienso que nos ayuda a comprender: me refiero al uso del adjetivo posesivo “nuestra”, puesto frente al sustantivo Iglesia. Este es un modo de expresarse que indica cercanía, afecto, simpatía hacia la Iglesia. Pero si no se tiene la advertencia de mantenerlo unido a otra expresión, “Su” Iglesia, el riesgo es considerar a la Esposa de Cristo como una creatura nuestra, un producto nuestro, una realización humana que, finalmente, precisamente porque es “nuestra”, podemos siempre de nuevo reconstruir o deconstruir a gusto. En cambio, la Iglesia, sobre todo, es Suya, es decir, es de Cristo que, según la bella simbología patrística de los primeros siglos, retomada luego en la Edad Media, es el sol, mientras la Iglesia se presenta como mysterium lunae y es totalmente iluminada por el sol.
A veces, también en nuestra reciente actualidad eclesial, esta percepción de la Iglesia parece ofuscarse para muchos cristianos, con una suerte de inversión: de reflejo de la presencia de Cristo se pasa a percibir la realidad eclesial como una realidad comprometida en atestiguar por sí misma la propia presencia relevante en la historia. Y tal afirmación de sí misma es presentada como un modo de “demostrar” la credibilidad” del cristianismo. ¿A qué pueden llevar estas dinámicas?

Si se pierde de vista que el evento cristiano es algo real e histórico, que concierne la carne y la sangre, entonces este hecho nos lleva a una visión “espiritualista” que ya no logra alcanzar al hombre concreto, hecho, precisamente, de carne y sangre. De este modo, si se pierde de vista que la Iglesia es cuerpo de Cristo, entonces, en cada situación, la Iglesia estará a la búsqueda de su legitimación y afirmación, volviéndose autorreferencial. Pensemos en los dos discípulos de Emaús que no se dan cuenta del Resucitado, continúan hablando de sus problemas, de sus tristezas y no logran abrir los ojos sobre Él y verlo. Es el drama siempre posible de la autorreferencialidad de la Iglesia, que quiere decir: pérdida de su identidad sacramental. La Iglesia, de hecho, nos recuerda el Vaticano II en la Lumen gentium, es sacramento de Cristo y, por eso, el empañarse de esta realidad no es algo de poca importancia.
Análogamente, a veces parece que la intención de atestiguar la fe en el mundo deba confiarse a iniciativas extraordinarias o incluso espectaculares.

Pero encaminarse por esta senda quiere decir estar en contraste con lo que Jesús ha dicho y hecho en el Evangelio, y con la misma realidad del vivir humano, hecho de gestos cotidianos. La Iglesia, de este modo, se auto-liquidaría. No se puede vivir de cosas extraordinarias, sino ordinarias: las cosas de cada día. El Evangelio no es para pocos elegidos y no está hecho de cosas vividas una tantum. Por el contrario, es cuestión de salvación todos los días y para cada hombre.
El comienzo del Año de la Fe coincide con los 50 años del comienzo del Concilio Vaticano II. Algunos atribuyen directamente a aquel evento la crisis de fe, llegando a interpretarlo como el origen del decaimiento del cristianismo o incluso como el instrumento de penetración de un pensamiento no católico en la Iglesia. ¿Usted qué piensa sobre esto?

Mi ordenación sacerdotal tuvo lugar en 1977, por lo tanto, puedo decir que he nacido teológicamente y como sacerdote después del gran evento eclesial del Concilio ecuménico Vaticano II. Si releemos los textos conciliares, si interpretamos su espíritu a partir de la letra y no contra la letra, si no nos lanzamos con afirmaciones del estilo “por fidelidad al Concilio es necesario ir más allá del Concilio” (frase en la que cada uno puede encontrar aquello que, de tanto en tanto, más le agrada), entonces no podemos más que considerar el Concilio como una verdadera gracia para la Iglesia de nuestro tiempo. También aquí, una vez más, Benedicto XVI nos ha indicado el camino maestro hablando de la hermenéutica de la reforma en la continuidad y tomando distancia de toda hermenéutica de la ruptura.
El Año de la Fe tiene su precedente en aquel convocado por Pablo VI en 1967, que culminó en la proclamación del Credo del Pueblo de Dios. ¿Cómo vivió usted personalmente aquella etapa, cómo la recuerda?

Entonces era adolescente, tenía catorce años. Recuerdo bien, sin embargo, que se percibía en los medios, y consecuentemente en la sociedad, el crecimiento de un clima de sospecha y adverso al magisterio de la Iglesia. Aparecía con claridad el intento de dividir la realidad eclesial, contraponiendo el magisterio – sobre todo el del Papa – a los fieles, considerados el verdadero pueblo de dios. Se olvidaba, o tal vez no se quería recordar, que la Lumen gentium, hablando del pueblo de Dios como el titular del poder profético y carismático, afirma, citando a Agustín: “La totalidad de los fieles no puede equivocarse cuando cree… cuando «desde los Obispos hasta los últimos fieles laicos» (cfr. San Agustín, De praedestinatione sanctorum 14, 27: PL 44, 980) presta su consentimiento universal en las cosas de fe y costumbres”. Eran años en los que, con una oportuna catequesis, se habría debido sostener y acompañar más la fe de los sencillos frente al abrumador poder de los especialistas.
El Año de la Fe coincide con una crisis económica que está arrollando también la sociedad del bienestar. Alguno diría que se busca refugio en lo espiritual para soportar los problemas materiales. ¿Qué tiene que ver la fe, por ejemplo, con la pérdida del trabajo que está angustiando también en Italia a millones de personas?

Corresponde a una idea equivocada de fe aquella de quien se refugia en la fe sólo para no sucumbir a los problemas materiales. El creyente, de hecho, es aquel que adhiere al Señor Jesús prescindiendo del hecho que las cosas, humanamente, vayan bien o mal. La fe, “sobre todo”, no concierne a algo que es colateral al hombre. El hombre no está ya realizado en sí mismo, prescindiendo de su relación con Jesucristo. Por el contrario, la fe es lo que lleva a cumplimiento lo humano, respetándolo en su especificidad y autonomía. Dicho esto, ciertamente la fe sostiene de modo particular a aquellos que atraviesan situaciones difíciles, ayudándolos a vivir en un horizonte más amplio. Con esto, sin embargo, la fe no garantiza al creyente realizar todos los pasos que humanamente debe realizar y que está en sus manos hacer. En un chiste que circulaba en ámbito teológico, algunos años atrás, se cuenta que un barco que está por hundirse y entonces el capitán ordena: “¡Los ateos a las bombas, los creyentes a rezar!”.
Usted ha nacido y crecido en Génova y ahora es Patriarca de Venecia. ¿Hay algún rasgo particular que identifica y caracteriza la fe de la gente de mar?

El amor a la propia historia y el vínculo con las propias raíces, el mantener vivos los recuerdos y las tradiciones, el valor dado a la religiosidad popular y el entender el sentido de la vida como viaje, el ir hacia una meta. Luego, en última instancia, una gran apertura al futuro y a los demás. Por otra parte, el mar une países y continentes diversos, el mar hace posibles la comunicación entre los hombres a través de encuentros e intercambios comerciales pero sobre todo culturales. Finalmente, el mar, precisamente en su inmensidad, se vuelve símbolo de Dios y de su infinidad.
¿Y qué diría usted de su fe? ¿Cómo ha germinado? ¿Qué acontecimientos y encuentros la han nutrido?

Mi fe, como asentimiento a las realidades creídas, es ahora la misma de cuando muchos años atrás me preparaba para la primera Comunión y de cuando era monaguillo. Esto lo considero algo bellísimo porque habla una vez más de la verdad del Evangelio. Me refiero a la invitación de Jesús: dejad que los niños vengan a mí. La fe, de este modo, aparece – como es realmente – para todos: niños y adultos, sencillos y doctos, ricos y pobres. Aquí aparece, en un sentido auténtico, toda el “carácter democrático” de la fe. La modalidad de adhesión, por lo tanto, no afecta a la sustancia del acto de fe que es, en la gracia, adhesión al misterio y no elaboración cultural. Precisamente por esto, los diferentes y múltiples modos de adhesión, más o menos cultos, no afectan la fe misma, es decir, el sí que salva.
¿Y qué indicaciones dará a todos para vivir el Año de la Fe?

La indicación es redescubrir la fe en sus características propias, superando toda posible reducción y distorsión. El riesgo es hacer de la fe una realidad intelectual o sentimental, no acogiéndola ya como evento salvífico que lleva a cumplimento la humanidad. El hombre, por sí solo, no puede hacerlo, y la fe le permite realizar su humanidad. La fe completa lo que mi creaturalidad sólo entrevé y preanuncia. Por eso, la indicación de método que Jesús da a los suyos, cuando los llama al apostolado, es fundamental. A la pregunta: “Maestro, ¿dónde vives?”, Jesús responde invitándolos a seguirlo. También nosotros, al comienzo de este Año de la Fe, en primer lugar, debemos redescubrir la vida eclesial como sequela Christi. Se trata de vivir no sólo en la Iglesia sino, como decía casi un siglo atrás Romano Guardini, la Iglesia. Y para hacer esto es fundamental volver a centrarse en una oración más auténtica – en especial la litúrgica – y también redescubrir el gesto humilde de la peregrinación, signo de un camino común hacia la meta, que es el Señor Jesús, principio y consumación de nuestra fe.
El Papa Luciani, también él Patriarca, hizo como Papa sus primeras catequesis sobre fe, esperanza y caridad. ¿De qué modo esta figura puede ofrecer principios de edificación en la actividad pastoral?

Este año se cumple el centenario de su nacimiento, y trataremos de celebrarlo de modo digno. Por algunos ha sido considerado duro o incluso criticado por ser demasiado fiel al Papa y a su magisterio. En realidad, él ha tratado hasta el final de poder componer las cosas y encontrar solución a los problemas. Y, a más de treinta años de su muerte, en el pueblo y en las parroquias ha quedado un recuerdo vivísimo de Luciani. Los venecianos, tanto de tierra como de mar, conservan un recuerdo grato y afectuoso del paso de este Patriarca. Lo recuerdan como un hombre de Dios, un pastor que ha dejado un signo entre el pueblo, también con la concreción de su homilética y con su capacidad de escucha y de diálogo.

Fuente: 30Giorni

domingo, 24 de junho de 2012

The Handwriting on the Wall - By George Weigel

In eppc 

A version of this essay was delivered as the 11th Annual William E. Simon Lecture in Washington on February 7, 2012.

In recent years, roiled as they have been by a global financial and economic crisis, the phrase "the handwriting is on the wall" has become a staple of the public conversation. It is a metaphor for the general sense of disorientation, unease, and fear for the future that seems epidemic throughout the Western world, and that is having so obvious an effect on the national cast of mind in this election season.

The phrase may be ubiquitous, but how many of those who invoke "the handwriting on the wall" have looked closely at its source—the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible? The story told there is a striking one. Recalling it in full might help us come to grips with whatever is being written on the wall at this moment in our national history, and in the history of the civilization of the West. Reflecting on that story might also help us identify a prophet who, like Daniel, could help us translate "the handwriting on the wall," understand its meaning, and thus know our duty.

The scene is readily set. The place: Babylon. The time: some two and a half millennia ago, in the 6th century before our era. The Kingdom of Judah has been conquered by the Chaldean king, Nebuchadnezzar, who, the Book of Daniel tells us, ordered his chief vizier "to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, handsome and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding, competent to serve in the king's palace, and to teach them the letters and language of the Chaldeans." The most impressive of this group of talented young Jews was named Daniel. In addition to the personal qualities specified for royal service by Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel had the power to interpret the great king's dreams—a skill that led Nebuchadnezzar to acknowledge, for a moment at least, that Daniel's God, the God of the people of Israel, was "God of gods and lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries."

Nebuchadnezzar's son, Belshazzar, was a different matter, however:
King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords, and drank wine in front of the thousand. Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and silver which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem be brought, so that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the gold and silver vessels which had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
Immediately the fingers of a man's hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, opposite the lampstead: and the king saw the hand as it wrote...
It was, as we might imagine, an unwelcome interruption of the royal revels. Belshazzar was terrified and promised to make the man who could decipher the writing and its meaning the third ruler in the kingdom. The tenured academics and op-ed writers were stumped. Then the queen had an idea: Call in Daniel. So the king summoned the young Jewish exile and promised him the third position in the kingdom if he could read the handwriting on the wall and explain its meaning. The eponymous book tells the rest of the story:
Then Daniel answered before the king: "Let your gifts be for yourself, and give your rewards to another; nevertheless I will read the writing to the king and make known to him the interpretation....You have lifted yourself up above the Lord of heaven; and the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored.
"Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. And this was the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians."
Then Belshazzar commanded, and Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold was put about his neck, and proclamation was made concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom.
That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.
Belshazzar's feast and its ending in the king's abrupt death is thus a Biblical warning against the lethal effects of blasphemy—the worship of that which is not worthy of worship, which is the negation of worship. In his drunken arrogance, Belshazzar turned sacred vessels intended for true worship into playthings for debauchery, and because of that negation of worship, his claim to sovereignty was annulled. The handwriting on the wall spoke of this. And it spoke truly.


Is there similar handwriting on the wall in our own time? I think there is. The words are different, and they tend to be written, not telegraphically on walls by mysterious hands, but voluminously, in newspapers and magazines and books and scholarly journals and online. But these words, too, tell of the results of the negation of worship. Or, to put the matter in less dramatically Biblical terms, the words on the wall at this moment in history speak of the results of a negation—a deconstruction—of the deep truths on which the civilization of the West has been built. And one of the main things that the "handwriting on the wall" in the early 21st century is telling us is that the secular project is over.

By "secular project," I mean the effort, extending over the past two centuries or more, to erect an empty shrine at the heart of political modernity. This project's symbolic beginning may be dated precisely, to April 4, 1791, when the French National Constituent Assembly ordered that the noble Parisian church of St. Geneviève be transformed into a secular mausoleum, the Panthéon. The secular project accelerated throughout the 19thcentury as the high culture of Europe was shaped by what Henri de Lubac called "atheistic humanism": the claim, advanced by thinkers as diverse as Comte, Feuerbach, Marx, and Nietzsche, that the God of the Bible was the enemy of human maturity and must therefore be rejected in the name of human liberation. After atheistic humanism had produced, among other things, two world wars and the greatest slaughters in recorded history, a softer form of the "empty shrine" project emerged in the 20th century. This softer secularism—of which political science, not political philosophy, was the intellectual engine—focused on the institutional structures and processes of democracy and the market: If one simply got those structures right—powers separated and balanced, markets designed for maximum efficiency—then all one had to do was insert the key into the ignition and let politics and economics run by themselves.

In both its hard and soft forms, the secular project was wrong. Above all, it ignored the deep truth that it takes a certain kind of people, living certain virtues, to make democracy and the free economy work properly. People of that kind do not just happen. They must be formed in the habits of heart and mind, the virtues that enable them to guide the machinery of free politics and free economics so that the net outcome is human flourishing and the promotion of the common good. There is no such formation in the virtues of freedom available at the empty shrine.

A glimpse of what the empty shrine does produce was on offer late last summer in Great Britain, when packs of feral young people rampaged through city after city in an orgy of self-indulgence, theft, and destruction. The truth of what all that was about was most powerfully articulated by Lord Jonathan Sacks, the chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, writing in the Wall Street Journal:
This was the bursting of a dam of potential trouble that had been building for years. The collapse of families and communities leaves in its wake unsocialized young people...[who are the products of] a tsunami of wishful thinking that washed across the West, saying that you can have sex without the responsibility of marriage, children without the responsibility of parenthood, social order without the responsibility of citizenship, liberty without the responsibility of morality, and self-esteem without the responsibility of work and earned achievement.
The inability of democratic countries to make rational decisions in the face of impending fiscal disaster gives us another glimpse into the effects of the empty shrine and its inability to nurture and form men and women of democratic virtue—citizens capable of moral and economic responsibility in both their personal and public lives. Whether the venue is Athens or Madison, Wisconsin, the Piazza Venezia in Rome or McPherson Square in Washington, the underlying moral problem is the same: adults who have internalized a sense of entitlement that is wholly disconnected from a sense of responsibility. And once again, it was Lord Sacks who connected the dots here when he wrote that the moral meltdown of the West—the attempt to build a civilization disconnected from the deep truths on which it was founded—had had inevitable economic and financial outcomes: "What has happened morally in the West is what has happened financially as well....[as] people were persuaded that you could spend more than you earn, incur debt at unprecedented levels, and consume the world's resources without thinking about who will pay the bill and when." These linked phenomena—"spending our moral capital with the same reckless abandon that we have been spending our financial capital"—are, Sacks concluded, the inevitable result of a "culture of the free lunch in a world where there are no free lunches."

At the moment, the gravest examples of the moral-cultural disease that is eating away at the vitals of the Western democracies may be found in places like Greece and Italy. There, public irrationality and political irresponsibility have rendered the democratic system so dysfunctional that, under the pressure of the sovereign-debt crisis, the normal processes of democratic governance have been replaced in recent months by the rule of technocratic elites, operating beneath a thin democratic veneer.

But Americans would be foolish if we did not see glimpses of the effects of the empty shrine in our own country. Those results come into view when we note the distinct absence of profiles in courage in our own politics; when entry into public service is essentially a projection of personal ego and self-esteem; when the crude exchange of epithets displaces serious engagement with the issues; when complexities are reduced to sound bites because the talk-radio show must go on; when short-term political risk aversion leads to grave long-term consequences; when trans-generational solidarity is abandoned in the name of immediate gratification; when the question becomes, "What can I get out of the state (and its treasury)?" not "What am I contributing to the common good?"

What these symptoms of democratic dysfunction suggest is that the empty shrine of the secularist project is not, in truth, entirely empty. For while it is true that the atheistic humanism of the 19th century and the democratic functionalism and economic libertarianism of the 20thhave drained a lot of the moral energy from both free politics and free economics, the shrine at the heart of Western civilization has become the temple of a new form of worship: the worship of the imperial autonomous Self, which, in 1992, three justices of the U.S. Supreme Court promoted and celebrated as "the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life."

That false worship of the Self—the worship of that which is not worthy of worship—has led to a severe attenuation of the moral sinews of democratic culture: the commitment to reason and truth-telling in debate; the courage to face hard facts squarely; the willingness to concede that others may have something to teach us; the ability to distinguish between prudent compromise and the abandonment of principle; the very idea of the common good, which may demand personal sacrifice.

If "the handwriting on the wall" is telling us that the secular project is over, then one of the lessons of that verdict can be put like this: While there are undoubtedly serious functional problems with Western institutions of governance in the early 21st century, the greatest deficit from which the Western democracies suffer today is a deficit of democratic culture. And a primary cause of that deficit has been the profligate spending-out of the moral-cultural capital built up in the West under the influence of Biblical religion.

What we call "the West"—and the distinctive forms of political and economic life it has generated—did not just happen. Those distinctive forms of politics and economics—democracy and the market—are not solely the product of the continental European Enlightenment. No, the deeper taproots of our civilization lie in cultural soil nurtured by the interaction of Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome: Biblical religion, from which the West learned the idea of history as a purposeful journey into the future, not just one damn thing after another; Greek rationality, which taught the West that there are truths embedded in the world and in us, and that we have access to those truths through the arts of reason; and Roman jurisprudence, which taught the West the superiority of the rule of law over the rule of brute force and sheer coercion.

The three pillars of the West—Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome—are all essential, and they reinforce one another in a complex cultural dynamic. That mutual interdependence of Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome is another lesson that the handwriting on the wall in the early 21st century is teaching us. If, for example, you throw the God of the Bible over the side, as atheistic humanism demanded, you get two severe problems: one empirical, the other a matter of cultural temperament. Empirically, it seems that when the God of the Bible is abandoned in the name of human maturation and liberation, so is his first commandment, to "be fruitful and multiply"; and then one embarks on the kind of demographic winter that is central to the crisis of the European welfare state. Culturally, upon abandoning the God of the Bible, one begins to lose faith in reason. For, as post-modernism has demonstrated, when reason is detached from belief in the God who imprinted the divine reason on the world—thus making creation intelligible through the Logos, the Word—reason soon turns in on itself. Then radical skepticism about the human capacity to know the truth of anything with clarity begets various forms of soured nihilism. And that lethal cocktail of skepticism and nihilism in turn yields moral relativism and the deterioration of the rule of law, as relativism is imposed on all of society by coercive state power.

Taking a cue from that great philosophical celebrant of irony, Richard Rorty, Colgate University's Robert Kraynak has neatly described the net result of all this as "freeloading atheism": Like Belshazzar's lords, wives, and concubines, those formed by the empty shrine and the worship of the imperial, autonomous Self have been drinking profligately out of sacred vessels, freeloading on moral truths that they do not acknowledge (and in many cases hold in contempt), but which are essential for sustaining democracy and the free economy, which the freeloaders claim to honor. But as Lord Sacks pointed out last summer, that jig is up.


If the death of the secular project is one truth that "the handwriting on the wall" is teaching in our time, then so is the related death of post-modernism, which has been done in by the radical disconnect between "narrative" and reality. In recent years, the notion of "narrative" (which gave birth to that horrible neologism, "narrativizing") has become ubiquitous in our public vocabulary. To "change the narrative" is to gain political advantage; to "narrativize" a problem in a new way is taken as a way to solve it. Yet "changing the narrative" cannot change reality, and anchoring our public life to "narrative" rather than to reality can so warp our perceptions of reality that we end up like the White Queen in Alice in Wonderland, believing impossible things before breakfast—and lunch, and dinner.

This has become painfully obvious in Europe, where the public "narrative" of the post-World War II period, and particularly of the post-Cold War period, is the story of the creation of a community of social democracies living in harmony in a world beyond conflict. That narcotic and seductive "narrative" has crashed against reality in recent years, and most painfully in the past year. It has crashed against the consequences of an unprecedented reality in human history: systematic depopulation on a mass scale through deliberate and self-induced infertility. That infertility, in turn, set the stage for the contemporary European fiscal crisis and the crisis of the modern European welfare state. For the simple fact—the reality that no "narrative" can change—is that Europe does not have a sufficient number of taxpaying workers to sustain the social welfare states it has created. As if that were not bad enough, the post-Cold War European "narrative" has also crashed into the reality of spoiled and self-indulgent citizens whose productivity cannot deliver the standard of living their politicians promise—those promises being yet another example of false "narratives."

The ability of false "narrative" to warp our perception of reality is also evident in the claim that China will inevitably rise to become the dominant world power. This Sinophilia has a familiar Oriental ring to it. Twenty years ago, the leading candidate for the title of post-American hegemon was Japan, and an extended narrative of the inevitability of Japan's rise was spun out in bestsellers like Japan as Number One. Today, however, Japan is living through an extended period of economic stagnation compounded by a demographic free fall that makes the very existence of the nation questionable over time. Now, the Asian contender for lead society in a post-American world is China. Yet that narrative, too, is crashing against demographic reality: Thanks to its one-child policy, China will get old before it gets rich, with its population declining after 2020 and aging at a pace that will make it impossible to support growing cadres of retirees. Moreover, as Max Boot has written, "China must also deal with the fundamental illegitimacy of its unelected government, its lack of civil society, pervasive corruption, environmental devastation, and paucity of natural resources." These are facts; this is reality. Yet the "narrative" of China as the inevitable lead society of the future has become so familiar that the facts simply do not register beyond a small band of skeptics.

And then there is the damage that substituting "narrative" for reality has done in our own country—to the Obama administration, to the general health of the public discourse, and to our national security. Evidently, the administration was so taken with the results of the "narrativizing" that worked wonders during the 2008 campaign that it imagines that "narrative" is the very point of government. As the president himself put it in an interview last summer, reflecting on what he might have done differently, "...the more you're in this office the more you have to say to yourself that telling a story to the American people is just as important as the actual policies that you're implementing." Presidents certainly must take seriously what the first President Bush dismissed, likely to his regret, as the "vision thing." But for a president to argue that what fundamentally matters in governance is storytelling is, at the very least, a striking indicator of just how much President Obama is influenced by the intellectual exhaust fumes of post-modernism.

The difficulty, of course, is that ideas, even bad ideas, have consequences. The consequences of this commitment to "narrative" by the administration have certainly falsified domestic reality and made serious problem-solving far more difficult. They have also placed the nation, and the world, in greater jeopardy.

In foreign affairs, the equivalent of the Obama administration's commitment to changing narratives has been the notion of a "new engagement," as if a change of declaratory policy and a less assertive (some would say more cringing) approach to difficult nations and difficult problems would change the problems themselves, perhaps even resolve them. It hasn't.

Three years into recasting the narrative with Russia and China in terms of "re-engagement," both these veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council continue to impede efforts by the United States and others to constrain Iran's nuclear ambitions—ambitions that, if realized, would pose an existential threat to Israel (and perhaps several Arab countries) while creating a capacity for lethal terrorism on an unprecedented global scale.

Three years into the administration's "reset" with Russia—famously launched with a toy button that turned out to have the wrong Russian word engraved on it—Vladimir Putin's bullying (and worse) in the Russian "near abroad" has intensified; authoritarianism has increased within Russia itself; and Russia has provided support for such anti-American (and destabilizing) regimes as Bashar al-Assad's Syria and Hugo Chávez's Venezuela. Meanwhile, "resetting" with Russia—"changing the narrative"—led to a betrayal of America's Polish and Czech allies on the question of missile defense. That betrayal, in turn, has encouraged the Putin regime to double down on its paranoid resistance to the emplacement in Europe of American missile-defense facilities of no conceivable threat to Russia.

And then there is Iran. Here, the change of narrative began with an apology for American actions taken more than half a century ago, continued with negotiations that produced no discernible results, and reached their moral nadir when the administration ignored popular discontent with the mullahs' regime and effectively undercut the possibility of the Iranian people shaking off the rule of the apocalyptic clerics and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. As for the results of this attempt to "change the narrative": Iran continues to be a state sponsor of terrorism and, because of that, Americans have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan; Iran saber-rattles in the Strait of Hormuz and undertakes assassination plots in Washington; the Iranian nuclear program grinds on. Meanwhile, this attempt to change the "narrative" of America's dealings with Iran has often obscured from public view the reality of the situation, which is that regime change in Tehran is the only path to the reintegration of Iran into the community of responsible nations.

A change of "narrative" cannot change reality. But false narratives can so warp our perceptions of reality that matters are made worse. And matters made worse can, and often do, lead to matters made far more dangerous. That, too, is part of "the handwriting on the wall" in this election year.


In the fifth chapter of the Book of Daniel, "the handwriting on the wall" bespoke, however cryptically, the imminent demise of King Belshazzar's regime. I am not suggesting that "the handwriting on the wall" in the early 21st century bespeaks the demise of the West or of the United States. Like Rabbi Lord Sacks, I can look back in history on moments of social dissolution followed by rapid periods of cultural transformation and profound societal change. In his Wall Street Journal article, Sacks cited the rapid change of early industrial England under the influence of the Wesleyan revolution, which in two generations transformed British society in positive ways. Closer to our own time, we might recall the transformation of American culture, society, and law effected by the classic civil rights movement, another revolution of social change led by churchmen and built on the foundations of Biblical faith.

Any such revolution in the 21st century will have to contend with social acids at least as corrosive as cheap gin in Dickensian London and racism in America, however. It will have to contend with the intellectual detritus of the past two centuries, which has placed the imperial autonomous Self at the center of the Western civilizational project while reducing democracy and the free economy to matters of mechanics. Who is the Daniel who can read this "handwriting on the wall" and point a path, not to the demise of Western democracy, but to its moral and cultural renewal and thus its political transformation?

One possible candidate for that prophetic role is the Bishop of Rome who created the modern papacy, Pope Leo XIII. Born in 1810 into the minor Italian nobility and elected pope in 1878 as a caretaker, he died in 1903 after what was then the second-longest pontificate in recorded history. Vincenzo Gioacchino Pecci came to the papacy at one of the lowest points in that ancient office's historic fortunes. On the demise of the Papal States in 1870 and the pope's withdrawal from public view as the "prisoner of the Vatican," the great and good of Europe thought the papacy and the Church a spent force in world-historical terms. Yet over the next quarter-century, Leo XIII would prove to statesmen that he was, as Russell Hittinger put it, "the wiliest pope in centuries."

More to the point for our purposes, Leo XIII, as Professor Hittinger wrote, was also possessed by "a relentless drive to diagnose historical contingencies in the light of first principles." He was, in that sense, a kind of public intellectual. Like his 20th- and 21st-century papal successors, he, too, believed in reading "the signs of the times." But unlike the radical secularists of his time and ours, Leo XIII believed in reading the signs of the times through a lens ground by faith and reason. His passion for understanding the deep currents of history through reason informed by a Biblical vision of the human person and human communities is best remembered today for having launched the social doctrine of the Catholic Church. Yet Leo, who began to disentangle the Church in Europe from the evangelically stifling embrace of the old regimes, was also an acute analyst of the pathologies of political modernity. And it is that aspect of his thought and teaching that makes him a possible Daniel for our time, helping us read "the handwriting on the wall" as the freeloading pagans of modernity continue their carousing.

Leo's analysis of political modernity might be summarized in one phrase: no telos, no justice. Or, if you prefer: no metaphysics, no morals. Or, to leave the technical vocabulary of philosophy: no grounding of politics and economics in the deep truths of the human condition, no society fit for human beings.

What I have called the "empty shrine" at the center of political modernity was, for Leo XIII, the result of a dramatic revolution in European intellectual life in which metaphysics had been displaced from the center of reflection, thinking-about-thinking had replaced thinking-about-truth, and governance had therefore come unstuck from the first principles of justice. Science, which had replaced metaphysics as the most consequential of intellectual disciplines, could provide no answer to the moral question with which all politics, in the Western tradition, begins: How ought we to live together? Worse, when science stepped outside its disciplinary boundaries and tried its hand at social and political prescription, it let loose new demons, such as Social Darwinism, that would prove astonishingly lethal when they shaped the national tempers that made possible the great slaughters of the First World War.

Leo tried to fill the empty shrine at the heart of political modernity with reason, and with the moral truths that reason can discern. This was, to be sure, reason informed by Biblical faith and Christian doctrine. But the genius of Leo XIII, public intellectual, was that he found a vocabulary to address the social, political, and economic problems of his time, and ours, that was genuinely ecumenical and accessible to all—the vocabulary of public reason, drawn from the natural moral law that is embedded in the world and in us. In one of his great encyclicals on political modernity, Immortale Dei, published in 1885, Leo wrote that "the best parent and guardian of liberty amongst men is truth." Unlike the post-modern Pontius Pilates who imagine that the cynical question "What is truth?" ends the argument, Leo XIII understood that this question, which can be asked in a non-cynical and genuinely inquiring way, is the beginning of any serious wrestling with the further question, "How ought we to live together?"

This general orientation to the problem of political modernity then led Leo to pose a cultural challenge to the post-ancien régime public life of the West: a challenge to think more deeply about law, about the nature of freedom, about civil society and its relationship to the state, and about the limits of state power.

Leo XIII's concept of law, drawn from Thomas Aquinas, challenged the legal positivism of his time and ours, according to which the law is what the law says it is, period. That may be true, at a very crude level. But such positivism (which is also shaped by the modern tendency to see civil laws as analogous to the "laws" of nature) empties law of moral content, detaches it from reason, and treats it as a mere expression of human willfulness. Leo challenged political modernity to a nobler concept of law, synthesized by Russell Hittinger, as "a binding precept of reason, promulgated by a competent authority for the common good." Thus law is not mere coercion; law is authoritative prescription grounded in reason. True law reflects moral judgment, and its power comes from its moral persuasiveness. Law appeals to conscience, not just to fear.

Given this understanding of law, it should come as no surprise that Leo challenged political modernity to a nobler concept of freedom. Following Aquinas rather than Ockham (that first of the proto-modern distorters of the idea of freedom), Leo XIII insisted that freedom is not sheer willfulness. Rather, as Leo's successor John Paul II would later put it, freedom is the human capacity to know what is truly good, to choose it freely, and to do so as a matter of habit, or virtue. According to this line of argument, a talent for freedom grows in us; we cut short that learning process if we insist, with the culture of the imperial autonomous Self, that my freedom consists in doing what I want to do, now.

Leo XIII's challenge to political modernity was also a challenge to the omni-competence of the state. Leo was a committed defender of what we would call "civil society," or what were called "voluntary private associations" in his day. Political community, according to Leo XIII, was composed of a richly textured pluralism of associations, of which the state was but one (albeit an important one). These voluntarily entered, free associations (which, to reduce the matter to its simplest form, included everything from the family to business and labor associations to civic groups and religious communities) were not merely barriers against the reach of state power; they were goods in themselves, communities expressing different forms of friendship and human solidarity. Thus the just state would take care to protect these societies, which contributed to the common good in unique ways—and not least by forming the habits of heart and mind that made willful men and women into good citizens. Moreover, Leo proposed, the state's responsibility to provide legal protection for the functioning of free associations ought not to be something conceded out of a sense of largesse or governmental noblesse oblige. That responsibility, too, was a matter of first principles: in this case, the principle of the limited, law-governed state. For the state that can recognize that there are human associations that exist prior to the state, not just as a matter of historical chronology but as a matter of the deep truths of the human condition, is a state that has recognized the boundary markers of its own competence, and thus the limits of its legitimate reach.

In the first papal social encyclical, Rerum Novarum, published in 1891, Leo XIII wrote presciently about many of the debates of our own time; he also anticipated the disputes animating contemporary arguments as seemingly diverse as the definition of marriage, the reach of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the regulatory powers of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The specific form of voluntary association being addressed in Rerum Novarum was the trade union, but the principle Leo articulated applies throughout the rich associational matrix of civil society: "The State should watch over these societies of citizens banded together in accordance with their rights, but it should not thrust itself into their peculiar concerns and their organization, for things move and live by the spirit inspiring them, and may be killed by the rough grasp of a hand from without."


In 2012, the American people confront many questions in what bids fair to be a defining national election, not unlike 1800, 1828, 1860, 1932, and 1980 in its potential consequences. Will the United States continue to "lead from behind" in world affairs, as the Obama administration describes its strategy, or will it resume its place as the indispensable country "at the point" in confronting threats to world order? Will the United States follow the social model pioneered by post-World War II Western Europe, or will it devise new ways of combining compassion, justice, personal responsibility, and public fiscal discipline? Can the challenges of globalization be met in ways that expand, rather than diminish, the middle class? Will the federal judiciary continue to provide legal ballast for the doomed secular project, or will it permit the normal mechanisms of democratic self-governance to advance a nobler understanding of freedom, and indeed of law itself? Will religious freedom remain the first liberty of these United States, or will religious communities be pushed farther to the margins of public life? Will the legal architecture of America promote a culture of life or a culture of death?

These are all questions of grave import. On first glance they can appear like a broken kaleidoscope that never resolves itself into discernible patterns and connections. Or, to return to the image with which we began: "The handwriting on the wall" can seem indecipherable. Yet with Leo XIII's acute analysis of political modernity as our guide, perhaps we can decipher the writing and discern its meaning. "The handwriting on the wall" at this moment in history is telling us that a political culture detached from the deep truths embedded in the human condition eventually yields traits of selfishness and irresponsibility that ill befit citizens of a democracy. "The handwriting on the wall" is telling us that a democratic politics that ignores those deep truths eventually dissolves into thinly disguised dictatorship—the dictatorship of relativism. And if that is the message, then our duty comes into clearer focus, too.

If the rule of law, the heritage of Rome, is threatened among us, not just by rioting British youth, violent protest, and unfocused fear, but by the transformation of law into coercion in the name of misguided compassion, then we should look to Jerusalem and Athens—to a revival of the Biblical image of humanity and to a rediscovery of the arts of reason—as the means by which to rebuild the foundations of democracy. In Psalm 11, the Biblical poet asks what those who care for justice are to do "if the foundations are destroyed." The beginning of an answer to that poignant question, I suggest, is to disentangle ourselves from the notion that the ratchet of history works in only one direction.
Then, having regained a sense of possibility about the present and purposefulness about the future, we can proceed to rebuild the foundations of the political culture of our country, and of the West, through a deepening of Biblical faith and a reassertion of the prerogatives of reason in the name of a noble concept of law-governed democracy.

George Weigel is the Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where he holds the William E. Simon Chair in Catholic Studies.