The answer is that he is older than he was when he was "the old Gil Bailie." In the meantime, he has learned a great deal, and the world has changed a great deal.
Here are my opening remarks (as they now stand; I am half way through the October round of lectures) for this month's Emmaus Road Initiative. The theme this month is "hominization" -- the birth of homo sapiens, but it is essentially a exploration of the Trinitarian and Nuptial mysteries. The controversial introduction helps explain the importance of recovering the anthropological relevance of these mysteries in our time.
Here are my introductory remarks:
Since, as T. S. Eliot wrote in “Little Gidding,” the end of all our exploring will be to arrive at where we started and know the place for the first time,” it behooves us to begin at the beginning, which is in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. For that Trinitarian mystery is not only at the origin of all things, but it is also the great mystery into which Christ came to invite us.
And as it happens, our theme this month – Creation and Fall – returns us precisely to where we started – namely at the birth of humanity itself – and we will be trying to “know the place for the first time.” But before turning to it I feel it my duty to make a few remarks about the contemporary cultural and historical setting which makes this month’s topic especially urgent.
In a rightly ordered world – a world in which the most essential moral and cultural realities are “as American as motherhood and apple pie” – this month’s theme would be the least controversial subject imaginable. With each passing day, however, the gears of a massive cultural revolution grind on, drawing western civilization ever deeper into what John Paul II called “a culture of death,” the certain historical outcome of which – if not reversed – will be the death of western civilization itself.
We will all have to answer to God and posterity for how we conducted ourselves at this critically important moment in our history.
So, I ask your indulgence while I outline the immediate moral and political threshold we – as a culture – are poised to cross in the wrong direction. If my opening remarks seem overly polemical, the argument that justifies them will follow, and I hope you will stick around for it. So if you feel the impulse to walk out, I hope you will resist it, even if only to spite me. For I have a hunch that for every person who walks out on a talk like this I’ll reap a small recompense in the life to come.
I have worked hard on this presentation, so if you you’re going to reject what I have to say I hope you will do me the favor of hanging around long enough to reject the whole of it and not just the first of it.
Speaking to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, on July 17, 2007, today’s Democratic nominee for president was loudly cheered by the largest abortion provider in America when he declared: "The first thing I'd do as president is sign the Freedom of Choice Act. That's the first thing that I'd do." The FIRST THING he would do . . . that’s quite a testimony to his political priorities. What is the Freedom of Choice Act?
The Freedom of Choice Act would Eliminate:
• State abortion reporting requirements in ALL 50 states
It would render null and void:
• Laws in 44 states requiring parental notification when minors request abortions
• Laws in 40 states laws restricting late-term abortions
• Laws in 46 states providing conscience protection for individual health care providers
• Laws in 27 states providing conscience protection for institutions
• Laws in 38 states banning partial-birth abortions
The bill would abolish all restrictions on government funding for abortions. Once signed into law, therefore – as the Democratic nominee for president has promised to do – all restrictions on abortions would be eliminated and they would be funded by taxpayers, like it or not. Doctors and nurses would risk losing their jobs if they refuse to cooperate.
But there’s more: The Born Alive Infant Protection Act – which would require medical personnel to provide medical care to children who survive an attempted abortion – passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate – all the pro-abortion politicians voting for it. But the Democratic nominee for President, then a state legislator, led the fight against an identical bill in the Illinois legislature.
Robert George, Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics and former member of the United States Commission on Civil Rights – says that the Democratic nominee for President: “has favored protecting what is literally a form of infanticide.”
In the pagan world, infanticide often took the form of what was delicately referred to as EXPOSURE – leaving the unprotected infant to die out of sight of those who abandoned it. The Born Alive Infant Protection Act prevented the revival of that pagan practice in our day, but the Democratic nominee for president fought vigorously against the Illinois version of that bill.
As Professor George puts it:
he . . . is the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress. . . .To show just how unyielding he is determined to be, the Democratic nominee for president dismissed those who object to this radical proposal in words that cheered the Planned Parenthood gathering:
. . . I am absolutely convinced that culture wars are just so 90’s. Their days are growing dark; it is time to turn the page; we want a new day here in America. We’re tired arguing about the same old stuff. . . . On this fundamental issue, I will not yield and Planned Parenthood will not yield. . . .Phrases like turning a new page, moving beyond the culture wars, and so on are pure political boiler-plate – the audacity of hype – I would call it. They make it sound as though he has some compromise in mind. The truth is that the plan the Democratic nominee for president proposes for ending the culture war over abortion is to crush the pro-life opponents of abortion with draconian legislation which amounts to the destruction of religious freedom. To the great satisfaction of abortionists, he is also on record as opposing any federal funding for pro-life emergency pregnancy centers that provide alternatives to abortion.
As weary as you and I might be of the culture wars, in the face of such aggressive assertions of the culture of death we must never grow tired of “arguing about the same old stuff,” for the outcome of that argument will determine whether our civilization descends into barbarism or recovers its moral bearings.
His temporizing in the last presidential debate notwithstanding, the Democratic nominee for president made it clear in a Glamour magazine interview that he would apply a pro-abortion litmus test in nominating people for the judiciary and especially the Supreme Court. The next president will fill countless judiciary appointments and is likely have to fill several vacancies on the Supreme Court. If filled with dedicated pro-abortion judges, these appointments will set the nation on a full-steam-ahead culture of death course for decades to come.
Happily, if belatedly, a growing number of Catholic bishops have spoken courageously on the gravity of this situation. As someone who visits Dallas every month, for instance, I’m aware of how forthright Bishop Farrell of Dallas and Bishop Vann of Fort Worth have been on these matters. Their joint statement on the moral responsibility of voters in the upcoming election states unequivocally that abortion is “THE preeminent intrinsic evil of our day,” and that Catholics “are morally obligated to . . . abolish the evil of abortion in America.” Predictably of course, others equivocate, often suggesting that, on balance, foreign policy, economic or environmental issues outweigh the life issues.
Imagine what life was like for the average German in the 1930s. The Jews were being rounded up and sent first to ghettos and then to concentration camps while respectable German politicians sought to “balance” their hand-wringing on those matters by pointing to how clever and compassionate their proposals were for improving the tax code or public transportation or working conditions in the armaments industry. This is our situation today.
What, after all, was the moral monstrosity at the heart of both slavery and the Holocaust? It was that a whole class of human beings were morally and legally invisible and therefore exploitable or expendable at the whim of others. This is the crystal-clear moral center of the abortion issue.
If western civilization abandons the most vulnerable and innocent to abortion, it doesn’t deserve to survive, and if it abandons the institution of marriage, it won’t.
For the other paramount moral and cultural issue of our age – ideologically related to the abortion issue – is the meaning and definition of marriage. On that issue, George Neumayr, editor of Catholic World Report decodes election-year winks and nods when he writes that the Democratic presidential nominee:
. . . goes through the throat-clearing rigamarole of saying that he's opposed to gay marriage, but he isn't. Were he opposed to gay marriage, he wouldn't be sending out letters to gay-rights activists congratulating them on their new marriage licenses; he wouldn't consider Bill Clinton's Defense of Marriage act reactionary; he wouldn't send his wife out to applaud gay-rights activists for torpedoing gay-marriage bans . . .The dogmatic secularists relentlessly pushing this agenda are quick to say to the rest of us: “just move along; there’s nothing here to see, just a few belated items of social justice, nothing to be concerned about. Let’s get back to the ‘real issues’ we face.” Busy as we are with other things, their reassurance is comforting.
But, with a court decision here and an act of political or ecclesial cowardice there, the screws are tightened. When the Rip Van Winkles awaken and rub their eyes, they will find that their children and grandchildren are being taught in public schools that the deeply held moral principles of their parents are not only wrong but morally odious and socially hateful – a hint of what’s to come as the modern intermission in the world’s persecution of the Church draws to a close and Christian faith once again entails an increasing degree of social opprobrium, legal and financial hardship, and more.
Since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973, the number of innocent babies killed in this country alone is at 48.5 MILLION and counting. If the voters elect the presidential candidate who has made his radical commitment to the culture of death appalling clear and his acquiescence in the demise of traditional marriage as clear as political expedience allows – future historians will blame two groups: American journalists and American Catholics, the culpability of neither mitigated by the threat of physical violence. History will judge the former for professional negligence in refusing to apply the same standards of scrutiny to the Democratic nominee that they applied to his opponents, but Catholics will be judged more harshly for a moral failure, especially when the whole sordid episode of abortion becomes as clear in hindsight as the Nazi Holocaust is today. The past is prologue.