By Fr. George Welzbacher
August 23, 2009
Though no one has asked me the question outright, I suspect that it may have crossed the mind of more than one reader of the Pastor's Page: namely, why do I so often use material drawn from The Wall Street Journal? One reason is that the Journal's columnists and those who contribute to its opinion pages have shown themselves over a very long time to be consistently perceptive and well informed; but far more importantly it's because the Journal's writers proceed from the assumption that there is something called the natural (the moral) law, according to which there are certain actions that are always right because they conform with man's nature, while there are other actions that are always wrong because they violate that nature. The Journal's writers by and large assume that the rights and duties that flow from man's nature as an image of God are as such not the product of the whim of mobs or of government decrees or of the consensus of a supercilious intelligentsia. Which is why among all of America's major papers the Journal has been by far the most supportive of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church.
There are, to be sure, certain magazines like The Weekly Standard and The National Review that are also sympathetic to the Catholic moral vision, not to scant the national edition of the conservative newspaper The Washington Times, issued to subscribers once a week. Both in their analysis of events and in their reporting of significant facts that would otherwise go unreported they, too, are exceptional publications. But among all of America's daily papers The Wall Street Journal in my opinion tries the hardest (and generally succeeds) in the effort to present the news using what philosophers call the natural law as a template. And that's an evaluation that I couldn't bestow on certain other major daily papers.
May I offer two examples: one from barely yesterday and one from a more distant past. The very recent example (from August 14, 2009) deals with a significant threat to the liberty of action of America's religious institutions, particularly Roman Catholic institutions, while the article from the archives (from August 28, 1969) offers the Journal's contemporaneous "take" on the celebrated orgy (a.k.a. "Festival") at Woodstock, New York, forty years ago, together with its implications for society. First the recent article and then the old.
* * * * *Look Who's Discriminating Now
By Patrick J. Reilly
The Wall Street Journal, Friday, August 14, 2009
Last week, thanks to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal government took a giant leap toward encroaching on the religious liberty of Catholics. Reuben Daniels Jr., director of the EEOC District Office in Charlotte, N.C. ruled that a small Catholic college discriminated against female employees by refusing to cover prescription contraceptives in its health insurance plan. With health-care reform looming before the country, this ruling is a bad omen for people of faith.
In 2007, eight faculty members filed a complaint against Belmont Abbey in Belmont, North Carolina, claiming that the school's decision to exclude prescription contraceptives from its health-care plan was discriminatory against women. "As a Roman Catholic institution, Belmont College is not able to and will not offer or subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church," said the college's president, William Thierfelder, at the time.
In March the commission informed the college that the investigation of its employee health insurance plan had been closed with NO finding of wrongdoing. Inexplicably, the case was REOPENED, and NOW the college is charged with VIOLATING federal law. If Belmont Abbey doesn't back down, the EEOC will recommend court remedies.
The ruling against the college is certainly consistent with the commission's published guidance on "pregnancy discrimination." The EEOC has found that contraceptive coverage is MANDATED by the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act (even though the law concerns [already] pregnant women and does not, by strict interpretation, consider discrimination against all women of childbearing potential); North Carolina also has made its position clear with a law requiring employers to cover employees' contraceptive expenses if other prescription drugs are insured.
The difference, however, between the EEOC's EXEMPTS religious employers such as a Catholic College, whereas the commission fails to consider that the tenets of a faith may preclude an institution from offering such benefits. And that's the rub: Increasingly it is clear to Catholics and other religious groups that without very clear exemptions for religious employers-and conscience protections for individual doctors, nurses, and pharmacists-federal health-care laws and guidelines could severely restrict religious freedom in the U.S.
Even the existing exemptions are often narrowly defined. The North Carolina statute, for instance, mandates that an institution may be free from the state's nondiscrimination rules only if "the INCULCATION of religious values is one of the PRIMARY purposes of the entity" and "the entity employs primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the entity." By this standard, of course, no Catholic hospital in the country would qualify. And the faculty members who complained about the contraceptive policy at Belmont Abbey told the Web site InsideHigher Ed that they don't think the school qualifies, since most of its employees are not Catholic and, according to the complainants, the inculcation of religious values is not the college's primary mission.
This is an incredible claim. Belmont Abbey is featured in "The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College," to be released in September, for the school's FIDELITY to Catholic identity and mission, and in January, 2008, the North Carolina Department of Insurance ruled that the college is a religious employer under state law, dismissing a faculty member's petition to the agency. But regardless, do we even really want the govenunent (at any level) in the position of determining which entities are religious enough and which ones are not?
Perhaps there are those who would say that this is an issue for only a minority of religious people. Catholics are nearly alone in their objection to contraceptives-and many Catholics regularly violate the church's teaching on the issue. But consider abortion. The EEOC says that pregnancy discriminafion does not apply to an employer's refusal to cover abortion expenses, "except where the life of the mother is endangered." When will a federal court argue that if insurance coverage to PREVENT pregnancy is, by inference, mandated by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, then why not abortion to END a pregnancy?
We can add the threat to religious liberty to the dangers already presented by goveniment-run health care. [Emphasis Added]
* * * * *
By Squalor Possessed
The Wall Street Journal Editorial
August 28, 1969
The so-called generation gap is not really so much a matter of age as it is a gap between more civilized and less civilized tastes. As such, it may he more serious, both culturally and politically, than it first appeared
Starting with the relatively small hippie movement several years ago, the drug-sex-rock- squalor "culture" now permeates colleges and high schools. When 300,000 or 400,000 young people, most apparently from middle-class homes, can gather at a single rock festival in New York State, it is plainly a phenomenon of considerable size and significance.
We would not want to exaggerate. Probably a goodly number will grow out of it, in the old- fashioned phrase. On campus, the anti-radicals seem to be gaining strength, and it may well be that these more conservative youngsters will be the people who will be moving America in the future.
But that prospect is by no means certain enough to encourage complacency. For various reasons it is being saggested that many rebels will NOT abandon their "life-styles" (the clichés in this field!) and that there are enough of them to assume some of the levers of power in the FUTURE American society. It would be a curious America if the unwashed, more or less permanently stoned on pot or LSD, were running very many things. Even if the trend merely continues among young people in the years ahead, it would be at best a culturally poorer America and maybe a politically degenerated America.
Now taste is that amorphous quality about which one is not supposed to dispute, so we won't argue whether rock is a debased form of music; we don't like it, but never mind. Without pursuing that argument, it is possible, we think, to say a couple of things quite categorically about rock and related manifestations.
One is that a preference for a particular kind of music is not necessarily a matter of age. In times past many young people were drawn to classical music and retained that taste as they grew older. Today the young's addiction to rock is at the same time a rejection of classical and the more subdued types of popular music, and considering the way rock is presented it must be counted a step down on culture's ladder.
That is our second point: The orgiastic presentation on the part of some of the best-known groups. It is not prudish, we take it to suggest that a certain amount of restraint is appropriate in these matters. But then, the whole "life-style" of many of the performers is incredible- disgusting or pitiful or both, but certainly hoggish.
The same applies to public sex in the audience, also in evidence at the mammoth Woodstock festival. It is not necessary to be a Puritan to say that such displays are regressive from the point of view of civilization. As for the ubiquitous drugs-well, we guess on that score we feel more sorry for the kids than anything else.
What perhaps gets us most is the infiauvion with squalor, the slovenly clothes and the dirt; at Woodstock they were literally wallowing in mud. How anybody of any age can want that passes our understanding. Again, though, it's not a question of age. A person doesn't have to be young to be a hobo. He does, however, have to have certain tastes and values (or non-tastes and non-values) which are not generally regarded as being of a civilizing nature.
Now we are aware of all the cant about how these young people are rejecting traditional tastes and values because society has bitterly disappointed them, and we would be the last to deny the faults in contemporary society. It is nonetheless true that their anarchic approach holds no hope at all.
They won't listen, but if they, and some of the unduly sympathetic adults around, would listen, here are some words worth hearing. They occur in a speech by Professor Lawrence Lee to a social fraternity at the University of Pittsburgh, quoted in National Review:
"You have been told, and you have come to believe, that you are the brightest of generations ... You are, rather, one of the most self-centered, self-pitying, confused generations....
"The generation gap is one of the delusions of your generation-and to some men of my generation ... The only generation gap is that we have lived longer, we know more than you do from having lived, and we are so far ahead of you that it will take you a lifetime to have the same relative knowledge and wisdom. You had better learn from us while you can....
"It is not mawkish to love one's country. This country, with all of its agony and all of its faults, is still the most generous and the most open society on the earth....All generations need the help of all others. Ours is asking yours to be men rather than children, before some frightened tyrant with the aid of other frightened and ignorant men seeks to make all of us slaves in reaction to your irresponsibility."
In any event, opting for physical, intellectual and cultural squalor seems an odd way to advance civilization. [Emphasis added].