“Commitment is doing what you said you would do, after the feeling you said it in has passed.” — St. Camillus
MEDITATION OF THE DAY
“The soul, who is lifted by a very great and yearning desire for the honor of God and the salvation of souls, begins by exercising herself, for a certain space of time, in the ordinary virtues, remaining in the cell of self-knowledge, in order to know better the goodness of God towards her. This she does because knowledge must precede love, and only when she has attained love, can she strive to follow and to clothe herself with the truth. But, in no way, does the creature receive such a taste of the truth, or so brilliant a light therefrom, as by means of humble and continuous prayer, founded on knowledge of herself and of God; because prayer, exercising her in the above way, unites with God the soul that follows the footprints of Christ Crucified, and thus, by desire and affection, and union of love, makes her another Himself.”— St. Catherine of Siena, p.1
Turn to God with this prayer for the strength to endure difficult times and look forward with hope.
It is important to implore God’s special graces with our prayers, especially when trying to persevere during a difficult time in our lives.
Ultimately God can give us the courage we need to stand against the tide of darkness and not be brought down into despair, losing all hope.
Here is a prayer adapted from the 19th-century prayer manual The Catholic Prayer Book for reliance on God’s strength during our most difficult hours.
Grant, O God, during this difficult time in my life, that I may show forth by my life whose disciple I am; that I may be ever directed by your light, and strengthened by your grace, to walk courageously in the way of your commandments, and to serve you with a clean heart, through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Orthodox Christians take Easter eggs very seriously, but the Fabergé eggs made for the Romanovs were remarkably secular in design and ornamentation.
This Sunday is Easter for Greek, Russian and many other Orthodox churches. The reason for the one-month difference is that most Western Christians adopted the Gregorian calendar as established by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582. Catholic countries were the first to embrace it; eastern Orthodox calculations for Easter have continued to use the calendar proposed by Julius Caesar in 45 BC.
Another difference between the two branches of Christianity is how seriously the Orthodox followers take eggs. They are not some sugary confection to be consumed as a reward for Lenten forbearance. They are decorative and longer lasting.
The most famous of these eggs are, of course, those made by Carl Fabergé’s atelier for the Russian Imperial family. Despite being part of the Romanovs’ Easter offerings to each other, it’s surprising how secular they are. Out of the 40-something known examples, only two have a discernible connection with Our Lord’s death or resurrection. One of these has features a red cross, but is really a tribute to the family member who founded the Red Cross in Russia.
The other has a similar look on the outside while the inside has imagery that is unmistakably part of the Easter story. As the Fabergé eggs were all about surprising the recipient, this one must have done its job properly. Most open to reveal twee miniature carriages or portraits of family members. This egg in the Cleveland Museum of Art has a painting of the risen Christ. Flanking the image are Sts. Olga and Tatiana. These were the names of Empress Alexandra’s daughters, who had worked with their mother to establish the Red Cross, founded in Switzerland five decades earlier.
Lucien de Guise
The help that the Imperial ladies gave to Russia’s wounded soldiers in the First World War did not save their lives. All seven members of the ruling family were murdered by communists in 1918. Their Faberge eggs were later sold by Joseph Stalin.
The tradition of giving decorated eggs at Easter has continued in Russia and elsewhere to this day. The painted-wood example here is very much humbler than the enameled and bejeweled Romanov gifts, but it does have more religious meaning.
The virtual Museum of the Cross
This 20th-century Russian wooden egg is from the collection of the Museum of the Cross, the first institution dedicated to the diversity of the most powerful and far-reaching symbol in history. After 10 years of preparation, the museum was almost ready to open; then came COVID-19. In the meantime, the virtual museum has started an Instagram account to engage with Aleteia readers and the stories of their own crucifixes: @crossXmuseum
[The] purpose [of the Introductory Rite] is to ensure that the faithful, who come together as one, establish communion and dispose themselves properly to listen to the Word of God and to celebrate the Eucharist worthily. (GIRM 46)
This type of public confession of sins has its origin in the Jewish synagogue and was part of early Christian liturgy during the 1st century.
For example, the 1st-century Didache states, “But every Lord’s day gather yourselves together, and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure.”
Offering thanksgiving and “breaking bread” can only be done after confessing our sins.
Striking the breast like the tax collector
One of the primary sources for this ancient tradition is the story told by Jesus of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
Two people went up to the temple area to pray; one was a Pharisee and the other was a tax collector. The Pharisee took up his position and spoke this prayer to himself, ‘O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity—greedy, dishonest, adulterous—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week, and I pay tithes on my whole income.’ But the tax collector stood off at a distance and would not even raise his eyes to heaven but beat his breast and prayed, ‘O God, be merciful to me a sinner.’ (Luke 18:10-13)
Which person did Jesus praise?
I tell you, the latter went home justified, not the former; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)
God wants us to have a humble heart and he teaches us through the Mass how to practice that humility.
With the Counter-Reformation came artistic portrayals of Joseph as the model for a “holy death.”
“Nothing is certain but death and taxes,” claimed Benjamin Franklin, while Robert Bolt asserted that “death comes for us all.” For his part, St. Paul asked, “O Death, where is thy sting?” and Martin Luther wrote that every man “must do his own believing and his own dying.”
From apostles to sages and poets to pundits, all agree that life ends, but how to confront death? Christianity promised life after death, and the Catholic Church offered teachings and pious practices to prepare for it, but come the Reformation, people were faced with choices of what or who to believe, and the stakes — eternity — were high. What if one chose unwisely?
“The Art of Dying Well”
The Counter-Reformation revived the Ars Moriendi, the Art of Dying Well, promoted in particular by St. Robert Bellarmine, who penned a handbook of sorts on how to die a holy death. This immensely popular treatise found its perfect artistic personification in St Joseph, model of the Good Death.
The History of Joseph the Carpenter is a 5th-century apocryphal book purporting to be a first-person account the life of St. Joseph by none other than Jesus Christ. The story claims that St. Joseph lived to be 111 years old and at the end of his life, he was deeply troubled, feeling himself weighed down by sin.
Jesus as narrator, knowing the unrest in his heart, comforted his foster father alongside Mary, ultimately driving back demons, and commanding angels Gabriel and Michael to welcome Joseph into Heaven. What more could one want beyond a personal guarantee from the messiah of a place awaiting in Paradise?
Artists portray the death of St. Joseph
The subject of the death of St. Joseph got off to a slow start in the Baroque period but by the end of the 17th century, altarpiece commissions started pouring in, offering artists an opportunity to flex new compositional muscles.
French painter Jacques Stella was among the first to tackle the subject in 1655, after a lengthy Italian sojourn. The confined composition – flat wooden ceiling and thick stone wall — seem like a metaphor for death, dark and enclosed. To the left are mementos of an industrious life to maintain his family: Joseph’s work bench is visible through the door, and the wooden furniture is his handiwork.
The ashen Joseph is near death and the blue-gray of the bedding accentuates his pallor. He sits up, confessing his fears as he looks hopefully towards Jesus. Mary, on the other side of the bed, clasps her hands, looking with sad compassion towards the suffering soul. One can imagine Joseph saying the words from the apocryphal account: “Indeed, the agony and fear of death have already environed me; but as soon as I heard Your voice, my soul was at rest. O Jesus of Nazareth!” Jesus, in turn, points to himself, affirming that he is the Savior. The bright clothes of Jesus and Mary contrast with the ghostly grays of Joseph. The red of Christ’s tunic (symbolic of his mortal nature) is closest to Joseph’s pale body, evoking their shared humanity as well as Jesus’ own eventual experience of death. The luminous blue of his mantle symbolizes grace and is mirrored by Mary’s veil: Joseph’s death is “cushioned” by grace.
Stella also employed echoes of Mannerist painting in the two angels, Gabriel and Michael. They pose sweetly, their elongated limbs drawing the eye upwards where the heavens have already opened to welcome Joseph. The fluorescent green of one angel’s robes adds a festive touch. From the cold shades of Joseph to the warm luminescence of Heaven – Joseph’s death is visualized as a transition into a better place.Launch the slideshow
A model death, a model mourning
The Death of St Joseph came into its iconographic own in the 18th century, when Bolognese artist Giuseppe Maria Crespi pioneered a new iconography. In his work, the figures are engulfed in Caravaggesque shadows. Joseph is portrayed in the last agony of death, stretched out on a death bed that protrudes unsettlingly towards the viewer. We no longer witness this death at a distance, but stand vigil at Joseph’s feet. A tearful Mary prays at what looks appears to be a makeshift altar, clasping a handkerchief. The glass jar on the table alludes to extreme unction. Crespi leaves the space undefined, dark shadows filing the background. Only towards the viewer, where the corner of a worn mattress peeks out from under the sheet, is there a careful rendering of the carpenter’s tools abandoned by the bed. The flowering staff, however, symbol of his chaste marriage, still blooms.
Angels in subdued tones emerge from the shadows, praying or conferring quietly as one gently cradles Joseph’s head. The old man, close to death, lies silent, comforted by Jesus, who, in the History, “held his hand for a whole hour.” Joseph receives the final blessing from Christ, and thus prepared, his soul will be escorted to Heaven. Crespi’s work instructs the faithful not only how to accept death, but how to minister to the moribund – prayerfully, quietly, and peacefully, despite the sadness of separation.
William Blake, illustrator extraordinaire of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy, produced a powerfully personal version of the Death of Joseph in 1803. As unique as it is lovely, it deserves a moment of attention.
Blake, a serious Christian, was fascinated by the spiritual. In this watercolor, Joseph lies on a long bier, his head softly nestled in the luminous lap of the Virgin. Jesus hovers over him, almost as if drawing out his soul to send it to heaven. The trio are enclosed in a colorful arc of angels, a rainbow bearing the promise of peace. The work seems to presage Blake’s own death, 25 years later, where witnesses said that, “Just before he died His Countenance became fair. His eyes Brighten’d and he burst out Singing of the things he saw in Heaven.”
After this year of pandemic, where many died alone and without sacraments, no time could be better to rekindle the devotion to Joseph as Master of the Ars Moriendi.
Modesty is a character strength that often gets a bad wrap.
You know the stereotype—the crabby, austere nun covered from head to toe in an over-starched, high-collared habit. While I happen to be a proponent of the more traditional dress for religious sisters, this, however, is not an accurate portrayal of such an important virtue as modesty.
The confusion surrounding the meaning of modesty may come from the fact that many people don’t really know what it is. For the record, it doesn’t just mean a way of dressing for women. It also expresses how anyone, man or woman, carries themselves in their presentation of goodness and beauty. A modest individual is happy to live a life of goodness without drawing attention to him/herself.
Now, let’s talk Kardashians… where does one even begin? Everything is on display: possessions, homes, jewelry, clothing (and lack thereof), and their bodies. It is a culture that elevates the idea of style over substance. Consequently, they are reduced in our minds, no longer complex persons with individual dignity to be honored, but brand images to be marketed in order to sell things that others are prompted to covet.
So how do we raise kids to honor the God-given dignity in them and others when this Kardashian mindset is so pervasive? Modesty is the answer! Let’s take back the character strength and the culture. Below are some great tips to begin living as families of modesty.
1. Mom, self-confidence is CONTAGIOUS!
This is so crucial to raising inherently confident children—rather than complimenting your kids for how beautiful they are, make sure they hear you take notice of your natural beauty and elegance. It is so helpful for kids to hear you say, “My hair looks really nice today!” or “I love my figure in this dress—so graceful!” We mistakenly think our kids will believe what we tell them about their looks, instead they believe about themselves what we say about ourselves. They mirror our self-talk! Your negative comments about yourself are certainly not good for you, but can also cause damage to your daughter’s self-esteem long term. Sons will also be negatively impacted by turning a critical eye to themselves and women. But, if they hear confidence and self-love in their mom, it will help them recognize true beauty, inside & out, and will help them when they are adults choosing a spouse.
If you catch yourself saying, “I look so fat!” or “I hate my hair,” STOP! Your children will begin to model that negativity. This undermines their self-confidence and natural dignity. So, do your best to see the good in your own appearance.
2. Check out that MODESTY!
From a very early age, begin pointing out examples of the character strength of modesty. Share with your sons and daughters when you see someone who does something extraordinary without seeking fanfare or reward, maybe a teacher or neighbor who does a good deed without expecting any praise in return. “Such modest behavior!”
Single out men and women who are dressed respectfully and honorably. Parents, remember to complement one another in front of your little ones. When dad is dressed to the nines for church or an event, say “Wow. You look dashing!” If mom is dressed elegantly, dad might say, “You look so pretty!” Both should respond with a heartfelt, “Thank you!”
When your family is confronted with images that are shameless (the vice of modesty) don’t try to hide from it, instead make it a teaching moment. This must be age-appropriate of course, but consider privately pointing out that a woman is really beautiful, but it’s a shame she is dressed so immodestly. My daughter and I have bonded over some of the ridiculous animated characters like Disney princesses who are either dressed inappropriately or look like bobblehead caricatures of women. Rather than shrink in disgust, make it a moment of practical learning. If you see an image of someone who looks fake and overly made-up, feel free to point out how artificial the person looks. Celebrate natural beauty and real men and women who come in all shapes and sizes.
3. The family RULES!
We all need guidelines. It’s not fair to expect kids to know the boundaries for living modest lives if we don’t discuss it regularly. Discuss it over a family meeting, or a family meal. Explain the “why” behind the modesty guidelines. “Why don’t we wear bathing suits to the grocery store?” This kind of interchange isn’t a “one and done” kind of discussion, but should be talked about regularly and added to as kids mature.
Mom & Dad, be sure to look for ways to model modesty, not only in the way you dress, but how you handle compliments. It’s ok to say a sincere thank you when someone points out a talent. Make it short and sweet and move on. Look for ways to help others without seeking any recognition. Kids will naturally take to this example.
4. Dad’s opinions MATTER!
As much as the world wants to diminish the role of dads, they’re so important to helping kids become well-adjusted, modest individuals. It’s not only OK to compliment a child’s outfit, but it’s good. “You sure look nice! I like how the yellow highlights your hair. You’re perfect just the way you are!” What a boost to every little girl to hear such uplifting feedback from the first man they’ll ever love. On the other side of the coin, it’s ok, to share your dislike for clothes that are too flashy or revealing. But be sure to do so in a positive way. For example, “All that makeup takes away from your natural beauty. Your eye color is too gorgeous to be covered up like that.” Or if clothing is too revealing, try, “You are such a beautiful young lady, but that skimpy dress doesn’t showcase your elegance.” Remember, never shame your kid. It doesn’t work.
We can successfully raise modest kids if we work together as strong families who are building character every day in small ways. Over time, not only will we enjoy the benefits in our own families (confident, dignified young adults who care about others), but we will all begin to see an amazing effect on our world—Kardashians included. One can dream…
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Pope Francis on Friday issued his second change to Vatican City law in two days. In a newly issued motu proprio, the pope amended Vatican City state law, to allow cardinals and bishops to stand trial before the city state’s civilian-led courts, with his prior consent.
The change might set the stage for a dramatic conclusion to the roiling financial scandals at the Secretariat of State.
Until the trial law was changed Friday, the only court competent to hear the cases of cardinals and bishops accused of violating Vatican City’s civil law was the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, where all the judges are cardinals and bishops. The pope alone remains competent to judge cardinals in cases involving spiritual matters or violations of canon law.
But Friday’s new law sees an end to centuries of legal privilege for senior curial prelates, subjecting them to the same legal process and judges as lay people in Vatican City. But if the change to the law in theory is epochal, in practice the new law could prove seismic.
As previously reported by The Pillar, the ongoing criminal investigation by Vatican prosecutors into possible curial financial misconduct dates back to 2019, when the IOR (a Vatican bank) lodged a complaint with financial watchdogs about a loan application from the Secretariat of State.
That loan, for 150 million euros, was meant to refinance a mortgage attached to the London property bought by the secretariat in 2018 as part of its efforts to part ways with the investment manager Raffaele Mincione.
It is a reasonably safe assumption that a person, still less a pope, doesn’t make significant changes to the law unless they intend to use it. In this case, Francis’ decision to expose cardinals and bishops to civil prosecution in the Vatican City court would seem to point to a looming high profile trial for someone.
If any cardinal is likely to see the inside of a Vatican City courtroom, it is Cardinal Angelo Becciu. The Sardianian was sacked from his role as prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in September, last year, after the pope was reportedly handed a dossier of evidence against him related to financial misconduct dating back to his seven-year stint as sostituto at the Secretariat of State and de facto papal chief of staff.
At the same time, Becciu was forced to resign the rights of a cardinal which, some noted at the time, was a necessary step (now redundant after Friday’s new law) towards him facing criminal trial in Vatican City.
The list of possible legal issues facing Becciu is long and covers the whole of his term at the Secretariat of State and beyond.
It was under Becciu’s term at the Secretariat of State that the department first became involved with Raffaele Mincione, and invested with him 200 million euros which the secretariat had borrowed from Swiss banks, one of which was later closed for systematic breaches of anti-money laundering regulations.
It was under Becciu’s supervision that, allegedly, those loans were taken out against Vatican deposits at the banks, including charitable funds like Peter’s Pence, and the value of the investments was, allegedly, netted out against the loans to obscure their existence from Cardinal Pell’s Secretariat for the Economy.
Pell and Becciu repeatedly clashed in the early years of the Francis papacy, as the Australian cardinal attempted to implement the pope’s sweeping program of financial reforms. Becciu successfully saw off several attempts at forcing transparency on the secretariat, including cancelling a Vatican-wide audit.
In a recent London court case, Gianluigi Torzi, the businessman at the center of the 2018 London property deal, named Becciu as the subject of blackmail by one of his officials at the Secretariat of State, Fabrizzio Tirabassi. It’s unclear what, if any, compromising material Tirabassi is meant to have had on Becciu.
Becciu also forced the departure of the first Vatican auditor general, Libero Milone, in 2017. Becciu made Milone resign under threat of prosecution, accusing him of spying on his private finances — private finances which were declared fair game by Pope Francis in a change to Vatican law yesterday.
If he is summoned to court in Vatican City, Becciu may have the chance to reconnect with Cecilia Marogna, whom he employed as a “geopolitical strategist and security consultant” for the secretariat. Marogna has herself said she worked as a kind of private spy for Becciu, and she has a warrant out for her arrest in Vatican City. Previous reporting has indicated Becciu continued to authorise payments to Margona, even after he left the secretariat in 2018.
There also remain questions over Becciu’s involvement in the secretariat’s purchase of the IDI, a Catholic dermatology hospital in Rome which went bankrupt in 2012 under debts totalling 800 million euros. The hospital was run into the ground amid widespread accusations of embezzlement, fraud, and money laundering by its president, Fr. Franco Decaminada.
Before Decaminada was arrested by Italian authorities, tried, convicted, jailed, and laicized, he approached Becciu in 2011 about an investment by the secretariat in the hospital worth 200 million. That deal never went through, though Decaminada did hire Becciu’s niece as his personal assistant. Becciu was later allegedly involved in the secretariat securing a loan of 50 million euros from APSA to help fund the purchase of the hospital out of bankruptcy, despite the loan contravening Vatican financial laws.
Becciu denies any misconduct, ever, related to anything. Thanks to the pope’s most recent legal change, he may soon have the chance to prove his innocence in court.
In addition to having final responsibility for the financial dealings of his department, Parolin has been accused, or publicly admitted, personal involvement in some of the most controversial transactions currently under scrutiny.
According to UK court documents, Parolin was specifically informed of and approved, in writing, various stages of the London property deal as structured by Torzi, and which have now collapsed into allegations of extortion, blackmail, and money laundering.
A ruling from an Italian judge earlier this month noted that Vatican prosecutors now contend that the secretariat’s purchase of the building— an investment of hundreds of millions — was made outside of the department’s authority. Potentially leaving Parolin responsible for the entire affair.
Parolin has previously assumed personal responsibility for securing a controversial APSA loan to fund the secretariat’s stake in the IDI hospital.
The Holy See’s presence on the so-called international white-list of financial jurisdictions depends on its recognition by the Bank of Italy. If the Torzi trial looks to show systematic malpractice at Parolin’s department, and Italian banking authorities take exception, he may be the only one who can be credibly held responsible.
Cardinal Becciu’s successor as sostituto at the Secretariat of State arrived in the second half of 2018 and was charged with extricating the department from its involvement with Mincione. It was also on Peña Parra’s watch that the secretariat engaged Torzi to act as their broker, despite a complicated web of financial connections between Mincione and Torzi — some of them involving Vatican money.
Torzi also told the London judge that Tirabassi was blackmailing Peña Parra as well as Becciu, which seems to at least merit enquiries by investigators.
On the one hand, it does appear that it was Peña Parra who authorized many of the most controversial parts of the London deal, leaving him exposed as the person who could be argued to have made, or at least allowed, much of the current mess.
On the other hand, Peña Parra walked into a complicated financial mess in 2018, one which he did nothing to create and which he was charged with untangling. More to the point, there seems little evidence he approved anything which Parolin didn’t also approve.
Given that the roots of the current financial scandal reach back at least to 2014, and long before Peña Parra’s arrival in Rome, if he should find himself in court facing charges without Becciu or Parolin for company, he might well feel he has been left to carry the can for his seniors.
Former Vice President Mike Pence slammed the “radical” first 100 days of the Biden administration in his first public speech since leaving office and hailed former President Trump despite his role in sparking the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that placed him in danger.
Former Vice President Mike Pence slammed the “radical” first 100 days of the Biden administration in his first public speech since leaving office and hailed former President Trump despite his role in sparking the Jan. 6 Capitol riot that placed him in danger.
There are few topics that are of greater importance than “rights.” At the same time, the topic of rights has been egregiously misunderstood and fraudulently represented. What are rights? Are they the exclusive domain of human beings? What is the basis of a right? How can rights be protected? Can there be rights without duties? These are certainly important questions, though their answers are often confusing and contradictory.
That the subject of rights is important is widely upheld. Unfortunately, there is an unbridgeable chasm between their recognized importance and how they should be applied. Some years ago, the well-known anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote a piece for Redbook entitled, “The Many Rights to Life.” The redoubtable Ms. Mead generously extended the notion of rights to all animals and plants by declaring that “Clean air and safe water have become rights for all living things.” In her sweeping largesse, she bestows rights upon even those who have passed on. The deceased, she writes, have both the right to be mourned after death as well as the right “to vanish into the unremembered past.” She includes, in her bountiful list, the “right to a chosen sexual identity.”
Her munificence, however, does have limitations. She strongly opposes “the right of the conceived but unborn to emerge alive from the womb.” Thus, she strongly disagrees with the “absolutism” of the Right to Life Movement and approves amniocentesis followed by abortion so that couples may avoid “the tragedy of having predestined a living being to defective survival.” Many of her so-called rights are merely benefits, while she denies that a living human being in the womb has a right that is commensurate to the right a fish has to swim in “safe water.”
In the 1992 Casey decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy proclaimed 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.” Such a “right” has never been contested and stands as an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. William Bennett derided it as an “open-ended validation of subjectivism” that paves the way for drug abuse, assisted suicide, prostitution, and “virtually everything else.” George Will found it “gaseously” written, while Michael Uhlman labeled it a “thing of almost infinite plasticity.” Robert Bork saw it as “fog-filled, vapid rhetoric intended to put the reader’s mind to sleep.” First Things referred to it as the “notorious mystery passage.” Here, as with Margaret Mead, rights are passed as if they are nothing more than monopoly money, while the real coin of the realm is withheld.
The zenith of making wrongs right and rights wrong, however, may have been reached in a recent book co-authored by William F. Schulz and Sushma Raman entitled, The Coming Good Society: Why New Realities Demand New Rights (2020, Harvard University Press). It purports to be ultra-modern, doing away with so much debris that has been inherited from the past. In order to make a clean sweep of things, the authors dismiss both the natural law and any authority, including the Bible, which has a religious origin. Their task is important but daunting. It is reminiscent of a student essayist who claimed that the Hebrew slaves “made unleavened bread, which is bread made without any ingredients.”
Briefly, the traditional notion of the natural law, explicated by St. Thomas Aquinas and refined by Catholic philosophers such as Jacques Maritain, Germain Grisez, John Finnis, and others, is based on the universal human inclination to preserve one’s life, to know God, the truth, and the good, and to marry and raise children. The natural law is known through reason and, when properly honored, fulfills the most basic of all universal human tendencies. In other words, the natural law serves as the basis for morality and human rights. Human beings, then, should make choices that are congruent with their nature and destiny. Its’ most eloquent expression in American history was framed by Thomas Jefferson and appears as the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
What Schulz and Raman regard as “realities” are really occurrences or activities. A mere occurrence cannot serve as the basis of a right. Nonetheless, they confer rights on activities such as abortion, same-sex marriage, commercial surrogacy, and euthanasia while asserting that blocking the onset of puberty in gender-dysphoric children promotes human dignity. In the “good society” there will be the right to die, the right to have sex, the right to sell your body for sex, and everything else in the liberal agenda. Their liberalism seems unlimited. They endorse, as a right, the use of biotechnologies in which more than two people have a biological connection to children who are produced in laboratories. Having dismissed the natural law, it is difficult to understand how the authors could have enough respect for nature to associate technological manipulations with rights.
How, then, do Schulz and Raman justify the rights they claim to be rights? “These are rights,” they argue, “because the international community has recognized them to be integral to the common good, to a good society. Deny them if you like, but if you do, you will be flying in the face of a significant worldwide consensus.” Are the authors living in a dream world? It is simply an undeniable fact that there does not exist an international consensus on the moral issues they present. They eviscerate the real basis of human rights in the natural law and then construct a series of pseudo rights out of thin air. What they are really doing is raising wrongs to the level of rights while dismissing certain rights as wrongs. Their “good society” seems more monstrous than the dystopia that George Orwell painted in his novel 1984. According to one reviewer, their book is “an insipid mess.”
The liberal project attempts to do two things: to justify abortion and to rationalize, on the basis of “rights,” a series of wrongs that are going on in society. This is hardly a recipe for a “good society.” Apparently, Harvard University Press has seen fit to publish The Coming Good Society not because it is convincing, but only because its’ progressive viewpoint happens to be trendy.
Donald DeMarco is professor emeritus of Saint Jerome’s University and an adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He is a regular columnist for the Saint Austin Review and the author, most recently, of Reflections on the Covid-19 Pandemic: A Search for Understanding.