Christianity And Open Borders, Cont.

Mark Seitz

Here we go again

Rod Dreher has an angry, searching piece in response to the news that the Catholic Bishop of El Paso, Mark Seitz, has apparently been joyfully intimidating American Customs & Border Protection Agency guards into allowing already-rejected or returned migrants from Central America back from Mexico into the United States, in open violation of the law.

Dreher:

I admire religious leaders who are willing to defy unjust laws. But I gotta ask:

Are borders unjust?

Are laws forbidding foreigners to come into the United States the same thing, morally, as laws forbidding black people to eat at the same lunch counters as whites?

It seems clear that Bishop Seitz is saying yes to both questions, and not just saying it, but putting it into action by helping migrants break the law. I find this appalling, to be frank, because borders are just. These migrants do not have a moral rightto cross over into the United States. That is not to say that they should not be allowed to cross, eventually; it is to say that they do not have a moral right to do so, as Bishop Seitz asserts, and that the higher good nullifies US law. I dispute that.

However, if you support what Bishop Seitz did, then explain why the laws establishing and defending borders are unjust. It is true that not all laws are morally just — but why is the law by which the people of the United States determine who can enter the country, and under what conditions, morally indefensible? Perhaps you agree that borders are just, but believe that in this particular crisis, they should be ignored for the greater good. Why? What is the limiting principle?

Of course, all of this is blithely cheered on by a mainstream and prestige media who are so deeply biased in favor of extremely permissive immigration reform (if not de facto or fully open borders) that they report only on the “heartwarming” story of the the Kindly Old Churchy Man helping the downtrodden without even thinking about the untold harm that such combined acts of performative altruism do to the cause for real immigration reform rooted in the real world and political reality. Often utterly unaware of their own bias, the media report only the feel-good story to bolster the Narrative without exposing their audience to the broader questions at stake.

(Though as an aside, it is amusing to note the brief period of flattery, praise and kudos that Bishop Seitz will receive for doing this deed, in many cases from people who will immediately pivot toward describing him as an authoritarian, antiquated, misogynistic white male when the immigration lawbreaking delirium fades and they remember the Church’s stance on abortion.)

At this point, I think it is worth repeating what I wrote in April last year:

This is manipulative schmaltz of the worst kind. All of it. Anybody can harvest quotes from the Bible to build a case that Christian compassion involves rolling over and doing whatever a particular activist wants at that moment in time. But what we lack in this argument (and we see this over and over again in Christian arguments for mass immigration or open borders) is any acknowledgement that the immediate benefit to one new incoming migrant is not the only important consideration at stake.

When Jesus performed miracles there was no tradeoff, with one individual newly afflicted by the disease which Jesus cured in another, or the alleviated suffering of one person displaced onto somebody else. Nobody died because Lazarus was raised from the dead. Those who were healed at Gennesaret by touching Jesus’ cloak were not offset by a similar number who were struck down in their place. Uncontrolled mass immigration does not work like this. While there is a clear personal benefit to each marginal unskilled migrant  (and we are talking economic migrants here, remember, not refugees) allowed into a developed country, there are offsetting costs to be considered, too.

Sometimes these costs are tangible and quantifiable, such as the additional burden on infrastructure, services and the welfare state. Other times these costs are uncertain and appear only in the form of risk (such as risk to public order or national security). But the net effect is that the “good” done by letting in unlimited numbers of unskilled migrants from poor countries is offset by a commensurate cost. And this cost is no less important or worthy of consideration just because it is diffused across society as a whole rather than concentrated on one individual.

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We know that these negative costs of open borders will be incurred, and that they will be borne by society at large. So why is it more Christ-like to prioritise one over the other? Welcoming the stranger is absolutely the right thing to do when there are no offsetting costs to that act of charity, but what if welcoming the stranger causes a completely innocent third party to suffer harm? What we see, though, is many Christians prioritising the needs of the former over the latter. And in a way this is understandable – the benefit to the migrant is obvious, easy to measure and enjoyable to bestow, while the cost to society is diffuse, sometimes intangible and only detectable on the macro level, not at the individual level. Choosing the tangible and immediate over the intangible and time-delayed is a natural human instinct, albeit a harmful one in this instance.

So perhaps the real question we should be asking ourselves is this: does Jesus want us to think purely from with hearts, or does He also want us to engage our brains?

Viewed this way, the emotionally incontinent “Jesus would let in all the migrants” line of argument is becoming increasingly tiresome and threadbare. Maybe He would, and maybe not – perhaps instead He would work miracles to improve the broken and dysfunctional countries which feed mass migration in the first place, rather than feeding an urban leftist’s fetish for infinite diversity. Presuming that Jesus would opt for the immediate solution, the easy answer, the quick fix, grant the superficial human desire rather than the deeper human need, is to fundamentally misunderstand how Jesus’ ministry unfolded. Claiming that Jesus would advocate open borders is to subscribe to an incredibly two-dimensional, aging hippie version of Jesus, one which reduces the Son of God to little more than a genial Santa Claus figure.

Dropping everything and working for the immediate benefit of the person in front of us is not necessarily in the interest of millions of other deserving people beyond our vision. Sadly, our loaves and fish do not miraculously multiply; ultimately, we can only improve the common good by teaching the five thousand how to bake and fish for themselves.

It is also very telling that the “Jesus would let them all come in” brigade only seem to want to apply His teachings so far as they can be twisted to support open borders. The activists who go to protests chanting “no human being is illegal”, the often-wealthy coastal leftists who support unconditional amnesty for all and the establishment mediawho make a point of proudly failing to distinguish between legal and immigration, very few of them would open their New York or San Francisco homes to those cities’ many homeless, share their shiny new Tesla car to help a poor family do the school run every day or hand over their iPhone X to whomever demanded it. Yes, some profess a willingness to pay a higher marginal tax rate themselves in order to fund more plentiful public services, but that is about as far as it goes – keeping the needy firmly at arm’s length. Otherwise, their “generosity” actually consists of nothing more than calling for the government to tear down borders and disregard immigration law, and loudly screaming that anyone who expresses doubt about this reckless course of action is a racist.

But the costs of unskilled immigration (for the kind of mass immigration entailed by open borders would inevitably be of the unskilled kind) tend not to impact the wealthy enclaves where the cognitive, financial and social elites live, falling instead on far less privileged groups and communities. Many of those calling for open borders or more immigration in the name of Jesus also conveniently stand to get cheaper maids, gardeners and cleaners as a result, or live in neighbourhoods where the principle consequence of immigration is a wonderful explosion of diversity in art, culture and food. They are not the ones who typically rely on increasingly stretched public services, compete for low wage jobs or live in areas of higher crime or social tension. Nestled within gated communities or exclusive neighbourhoods, many will be insulated from the kind of widespread social unrest which the implementation of open borders would quickly deliver.

These activists are, in effect, disguising their naked self interest as generosity, benefiting economically and making themselves feel good and progressive while pushing nearly all of the negative externalities of mass immigration onto others. Jesus, let us remember, said nothing about giving away one’s neighbour’s possessions – the whole point is supposed to be one of personal devotion and sacrifice. The Jesus 4 Open Borders crowd, on the other hand, seek largely to give away something which is not theirs, promising to bear a cost which in actual fact they have every intention of palming off onto people further down the social ladder. How very Christian.

While immigration activists love to tout the many economic benefits that immigration brings, and rightly so, they generally neglect to point out that there is often a (significant) time lag between the marginal new immigrant arriving and local housing and infrastructure expanding in proportion to service the increased population. In fact, unless deliberate steps are taken by local and national populations, that increase might never happen at all. Even in the best case where the marginal immigrant is a net fiscal contributor, this does not instantly make the freeway a fraction of an inch wider or add a few thousandths of a new bed to the local hospital. This necessary growth in service provision requires political direction and civic planning, and must often be commenced in advance, long before the tax revenue stream from the new immigrant comes online (thus requiring deficit spending in the interim).

Now imagine a situation where developed countries receive greatly inflated numbers of new immigrants who are not in a position to be immediate positive fiscal contributors due to language, cultural or educational barriers which may also hinder quick and easy assimilation into the host country’s culture. Not only do housing and infrastructure continue to lag behind demand, now social tensions are also likely to spike, leading to scenes which make recent anti-immigration protests look like a model of peaceful, reasoned civility. We may well be looking a riots. Martial law. Deepening social division, violence and even deaths.

This kind of environment is not one in which great prosperity is easily created. Unless open borders were implemented everywhere in a coordinated way there would likely be a brain drain of the most educated and productive native citizens (many of whom had likely cheered on open borders while possessing the ability to skip out of town the moment their Utopian fantasy turned into a nightmare) to other more sensible developed countries with functional immigration systems, leading to a self-perpetuating spiral of decline among those advanced Western countries (and it is always Western countries – activists are not demanding that Japan drop its exclusionary immigration practices) which decided to throw open their borders.

In short, one does not have to play the tape forward very far to realise that there are alarmingly few steps between implementing a policy decision which makes woke, “no human being is illegal”, Jesus 4 Open Borders activists feel warm and virtuous on the inside and a situation where everything that makes their country an attractive destination for mass immigration in the first place is utterly snuffed out. Open borders is the kind of rash, ill-considered “Jesus, take the wheel!” policy proposal which its most ardent advocates would never replicate in any other area of their lives.

But of course, none of this matters. Christian immigration activists can adopt the “good-hearted” open borders position at zero cost to themselves, knowing that fully open borders (and the chaos that would be unleashed) will never plausibly be implemented. Campaigning for open borders is an opportunity to appear compassionate without having to either dip one’s hand into one’s pocket or seriously risk the unravelling of one’s present, privileged existence. And rather than wrestling with the far more thorny questions of why so many countries remain so dysfunctional and deeply unattractive to their own citizens, and driving solutions to help those countries help themselves, many Christians can opt instead to abdicate the intellectual work and simply shroud themselves in moral outrage that evil Western governments don’t let anyone and everyone breeze into the country.

In the case of mass migration, Christian outrage would be far better directed at the fact that all too often, the West ignores or downplays pressing questions relating to the root cause and does little to help solve the drivers of continued poverty and instability in much of the world, often actively contributing to the problem rather than helping, be it though haphazard military interventions or discriminatory trade policies. This criticism would be absolutely justified, though the solutions are nowhere near as simple as clamouring for open borders.

It may not fit quite so neatly on a protest placard, but I am personally inclined to believe that the more Christian thing is to wrestle with these difficult questions and to make intelligent national and personal self-sacrifice in targeted areas to improve the lot of poor and unstable countries, while pressing for an immigration system which is fair and non-discriminatory to applicants and seeking to find the optimal “sweet spot” where the benefits and costs of immigration, however defined (and it should be an expansive measure) break even.

I’m no theologian, but something tells me that a well-considered policy which diligently aims to deal with the root drivers of mass migration is both superior and more authentically Christian than a rash, emotion-driven and deeply harmful policy whose primary benefit is to make overwhelmingly privileged, first world activists feel better about themselves.

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Faith And Doubt At Christmastime

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A brief personal Christmas reflection on waxing and waning faith

At this time of year, back in England, I would often attend Christmas carol services where it was customary for an excerpt from John Betjeman’s poem “Christmas” to be read aloud from the pulpit. Chances are that if you grew up attending church in Britain in the latter half of the twentieth century, you know it too.

The well-known poem concludes:

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

The poem is nice enough, and one can certainly understand why it is enthusiastically incorporated into Christmas services across denominational divides (I would often hear it at an Evangelical Congregational church the week before Christmas and again a week later at Midnight Mass).

But at present, my mind keeps returning to another Betjeman poem on the subject of faith, this one entitled “The conversion of St. Paul”. Betjeman was apparently spurred to write it as a response to the (shocking for the time) broadcast on the BBC of a humanist lecture attacking Christianity – given by the “Mrs. Knight” mentioned in Betjeman’s verse.

My personal faith has ebbed and flowed this year. Highlights certainly include attending the Easter Vigil Mass at a church in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and finding a very welcoming home at my new university’s Catholic Student Center. Meeting some good friends there, attending a Catholic Bible study (that rarest of things) and praying the increasingly rare yet beautiful form of Compline (my grandfather would have approved) have all been very happy and spiritually affirming memories.

On the other hand, my disillusionment with the Church hierarchy has grown deeper and deeper, to the point of physical disgust, and an involuntary repellence from the rituals and practices which are often necessary to maintain a healthy spiritual life.

Another explosion of child sexual abuse cases – this time implicating very senior officials across numerous diocese in the coverups after the Church in America supposedly cleaned house after the 2001 scandals – make it increasingly hard to believe that many of those in positions of leadership within the Church are doing anything more than securing power and status for themselves, while placing the stability of the institution over the flock it is supposed to serve. Only recently, the Cardinal Archbishop of my new home diocese, Washington, D.C., was finally forced to resign under a cloud of scandal and suspicion.

The author and blogger Rod Dreher has written frequently and movingly of his disillusionment and eventual detachment from the Roman Catholic Church over the same issues, though Rod as a journalist had far better knowledge of what was going on and the depth of depravity and corruption within the hierarchy. In one piece (I forget which – if I find it I will update this piece with the link) he talked about the way that skepticism about the human institution can easily bleed into skepticism about the doctrine and theology which its leaders proclaim, and so works as a kind of metastasizing cancer throughout the faith. I must confess that I have not found myself entirely immune from this syndrome.

I have not yet taken the plunge of leaving the Church as Rod Dreher did, and have no current plans to do so. But this has been a year of waxing and waning faith, even more than usual for me. And it is this experience which finds resonance in Betjeman’s other poem, which I have reproduced in full below.

The last two paragraphs in particular resonate with me at this time and in this unusual Christmas season, my first spent as an expat, immigrant and permanent resident of the United States. Much like Betjeman, “no blinding light, a fitful glow is all the light of faith I know”; yet even now, we “stumble on and blindly grope, upheld by intermittent hope”.

 

The Conversion of St. Paul

Now is the time when we recall
The sharp Conversion of St. Paul.
Converted! Turned the wrong way round –
A man who seemed till then quite sound,
Keen on religion – very keen –
No-one, it seems, had ever been
So keen on persecuting those
Who said that Christ was God and chose
To die for this absurd belief
As Christ had died beside the thief.
Then in a sudden blinding light
Paul knew that Christ was God all right –
And very promptly lost his sight.

Poor Paul! They led him by the hand
He who had been so high and grand
A helpless blunderer, fasting, waiting,
Three days inside himself debating
In physical blindness: ‘As it’s true
That Christ is God and died for you,
Remember all the things you did
To keep His gospel message hid.
Remember how you helped them even
To throw the stones that murdered Stephen.
And do you think that you are strong
Enough to own that you were wrong?’

They must have been an awful time,
Those three long days repenting crime
Till Ananias came and Paul
Received his sight, and more than all
His former strength, and was baptized.
Saint Paul is often criticized
By modern people who’re annoyed
At his conversion, saying Freud
Explains it all. But they omit
The really vital point of it,
Which isn’t how it was achieved
But what it was that Paul believed.

He knew as certainly as we
Know you are you and I am me
That Christ was all He claimed to be.
What is conversion? Turning round
From chaos to a love profound.
And chaos too is an abyss
In which the only life is this.
Such a belief is quite all right
If you are sure like Mrs. Knight
And think morality will do
For all the ills we’re subject to.

But raise your eyes and see with Paul
An explanation of it all.
Injustice, cancer’s cruel pain,
All suffering that seems in vain,
The vastness of the universe,
Creatures like centipedes and worse –
All part of an enormous plan
Which mortal eyes can never scan
And out if it came God to man.
Jesus is God and came to show
The world we live in here below
Is just an antechamber where
We for His Father’s house prepare.

What is conversion? Not at all
For me the experience of St. Paul,
No blinding light, a fitful glow
Is all the light of faith I know
Which sometimes goes completely out
And leaves me plunging round in doubt
Until I will myself to go
And worship in God’s house below –
My parish Church – and even there
I find distractions everywhere.

What is Conversion? Turning round
To gaze upon a love profound.
For some of us see Jesus plain
And never once look back again,
And some of us have seen and known
And turned and gone away alone,
But most of us turn slow to see
The figure hanging on a tree
And stumble on and blindly grope
Upheld by intermittent hope.
God grant before we die we all
May see the light as did St. Paul.

– John Betjeman.

 

Additional: If you are a regular reader, derive value and enjoyment from my writing and have not yet contributed to my Christmas fundraising drive (particularly important now that I am an impoverished student once again!), please consider doing so here.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 46 – Purging Catholicism From A Catholic University In The Name Of Social Justice

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When academic or religious freedom is at stake, principled pro-free speech professors can expect no cover or support from their spineless university administrations

We have already seen how the leaders and administrators at one American Catholic university – DePaul University in Chicago – have demonstrated that they would sooner purge their own faith from campus than do anything which might risk upsetting the SJW cultists and their new secular gods of social justice and identity politics.

And now Rod Dreher brings us news of another persecution taking place, this time at Providence College in Rhode Island, where literature professor Tony Esolen finds himself besieged by vengeful students and hung out to dry by his superiors for having written a thoughtful essay for Crisis Magazine, questioning the current cult of Diversity At All Costs.

Was the essay rather provocative? Well yes – it was titled “My college succumbed to the totalitarian diversity cult”. But at one time university professors were expected to do and say provocative things. It was part of creating a climate of no-holds-barred intellectual debate, the kind which seems to have become so unfashionable of late.

But Esolen made a compelling argument in his essay – writing, remember, from the perspective of an orthodox Catholic teaching at a supposedly Catholic educational institution:

I understand what it is to have a Greek festival or an Italian festival, or a parish festival where fellow Catholics come out to enjoy good high-calorie food, play some innocent games of chance, and try to get the priest to sit in the dunking machine. For man is always united from above, not from below, and that includes even the make-believe transcendence of the local baseball team, which is harmless enough if not taken too seriously. When Catholics come to Mass to pray, they do so as members of one Church, not ten, not fifty, praying the same prayers all over the world, because they give thanks to the one Lord and Savior who died for them on one cross, on the one hill of the Skull, on that one Friday long ago. This was the same Lord who prayed that we would be not ten, not fifty, but one, even as he and the Father are one.

But the watchword at Providence College right now is not unity, but “diversity,” as is made evident by the four-page Diversity Program featured prominently on our website. When I see the word “diversity” in its current use as a political slogan, I ask myself the following questions:

What is diversity, as opposed to divergence?
What is diversity, as opposed to mere variety?
What goods, precisely, is diversity supposed to deliver?
Why is intellectual diversity not served by the study of a dozen cultures of the past, with their vast array of customs, poetry, art, and worship of the gods?

Immediately one can see how this would offend the SJW ideological enforcers, who preach that we are not one, but many, and that we must continually emphasise and acknowledge our differences – often to the extent of resegregation – rather than highlight our common bonds.

Esolen concludes his essay:

But there is no evidence on our Diversity page that we wish to be what God has called us to be, a committedly and forthrightly Catholic school with life-changing truths to bring to the world. It is as if, deep down, we did not really believe it. So let us suppose that a professor should affirm some aspect of the Church’s teaching as regards the neuralgia of our time, sex. Will his right to do so be confirmed by those who say they are committed to diversity? Put it this way. Suppose someone were to ask, “Is it permitted for a secular liberal, at a secular and liberal college, to affirm in the classroom a secular view of sex and the family?” The question would strike everyone as absurd. It would be like asking whether we were permitted to walk on two feet or to look up at the sky. Then why should it not also be absurd to ask, “Is it permitted for a Catholic, at a college that advertises itself as Catholic, to affirm a Catholic view of sex and the family?” And I am not talking merely about professors whose specific job it is to teach moral philosophy or moral theology. I am talking about all professors.

In my now extensive experience, Catholic professors in Catholic colleges have been notably tolerant of the limitations of their secular colleagues. We make allowances all the time. We understand, though, that some of them—not all, but then it only takes a few—would silence us for good, if they had the power. They have made life hell for more than one of my friends. All, now, in the name of an undefined and perhaps undefinable diversity, to which you had damned well better give honor and glory. If you don’t—and you may not even be aware of the lese majeste as you commit it—you’d better have eyes in the back of your head.

So naturally, outraged SJW students at Providence College went running to the college president in tears, claiming that they had been “harmed” by these thoughtful and completely non-malicious essays.

Equally predictably, the university authorities rolled over in the face of this tyrannical power play by the band of wobbly-lipped permanent victim students, and effectively censured Esolen. As Esolen recounted to Rod Dreher:

My friends of course were outraged, and I was stunned — basically, I had been singled out and exposed before the whole faculty, very few of whom were probably even aware that there was such a thing as Crisis Magazine; and of course they and the students are not my audience when I write for Crisis or whatever. Then, as if that were not bad enough, the President met with faculty on Wednesday afternoon, and all they did for a solid hour was to revile the evil Professor Esolen, with a few old-fashioned liberals defending my right to express my opinions, and several of my stalwart friends from philosophy and theology defending me personally and criticizing the president for his decision and for his handling of related matters. When the president said that he believed that he had to act “for pastoral reasons,” they replied that it was a strange form of pastoral care that pits every member of a community against one.

And it is still not over. The faculty have circulated a “petition,” or a resolution, or something neither flesh nor fowl, to the effect that though we all have academic freedom, it has to be exercised responsibly, and reviling “some part of the PC faculty” that is “unabashed” in publishing articles that are racist, xenophobic, sexist, homophobic, and religiously chauvinistic. The petition has been signed by various faculty members and students. And STILL I hear that they are not satisfied, but are trying to figure out if they can use my articles to nail me for “bias” and hate, basically asserting that I am not capable of teaching certain categories of students — gay, female, and so forth.

Though he remains able to appreciate the bitter humour in the situation:

As I’ve said to people, authors don’t choose the titles for articles for Crisis Magazine; the editor does that, for the sake of “traffic” on the page. His title was a bit provocative. But everything that has happened since then has shown me, alas, that the editor saw more than I did, or more than I have been willing to admit. The irony would seem to be obvious: “How DARE you suggest that there is a totalitarian impulse in our behavior? You should be FIRED!” And then of course there is the brazen cheering of the faculty when it is proposed that we should not be Catholic after all.

The strange irony of it all is that I’m the one who believes that a wide diversity of cultures and of institutions is a good thing, and they really do not. I do not WANT all colleges and universities to be basically the same; they do.

The list of demands presented to Providence College by the student protesters is full of all the demands for compulsory re-education (of students and faculty), gutting the core undergraduate curriculum to de-emphasise the Western Canon and make it more SJW-friendly, pumping more money into ethnic and gender studies, aggressive hire of minorities on an affirmative action basis, trained counsellors to minister to the delicate emotions of the student snowflakes, the building of a “multicultural center” and – naturally – the hire of new dedicated Diversity Professionals to oversee the new regime.

We are becoming accustomed to reading these laughably impertinent demands, but this document really does take one’s breath away with its sheer scope. And given the fact that the president (Fr. Brian Shanley) folded faster than Superman on laundry day when students first protested professor Esolen – sending them a grovellingly conciliatory letter which basically threw Esolen under the bus – I would not bet against the list of demands being implemented in full, unquestioningly, within the space of a decade.

When spineless university administrators are forced to choose between academic freedom or facing down the minority of SJW agitators who are determined to turn academic life into a pointless, totalitarian dystopia of identity politics totalitarianism, academic freedom loses every time. And when Catholic university administrators are forced to choose between defending the right of orthodox Catholics to express their faith or bowing to endless demands from the most privileged generation of college students in history, again there is no question. The demands are implemented and Catholicism goes out the window before you can say “that’s oppressive”.

Hopefully the new attention focused on this case – plus the fact that Professor Esolen has tenure – will mean that his job remains safe. But the long term outlook is bleak. Academia having nearly completely fallen to the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics, Catholic universities across America may soon become safe spaces for everyone and everything, save Catholicism itself.

 

Safe Space Notice - 2

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 43 – DePaul University Censors Pro-Life Conservatives To Placate Black Lives Matter

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Appeasing the gods of social justice and identity politics now overrides a Catholic university’s commitment to Catholicism itself

It is now indisputable: Black Lives Matter are rapidly becoming the one absolutely holy and inviolable interest group on American college campuses, a favoured priesthood of living saints who must be protected from blasphemy and offence at all costs.

There really is no other way to describe the privilege enjoyed by this organisation following the news that DePaul University in Chicago – a Catholic institution – recently banned a poster produced by the DePaul College Republicans because their catchphrase “Unborn Lives Matter” is supposedly deliberately provocative and hurtful to the delicate Black Lives Matter snowflakes.

I repeat: the president of a Catholic university actively suppressed the free speech of his own students because they dared to publicly support traditional Catholic teaching on the sanctity of life and the rights of unborn children – which might have offended a group of people who are supposedly concerned about racial justice, not abortion rights.

Campus Reform reports:

The DePaul College Republicans chapter has been censored yet again, this time over promotional flyers proclaiming that “Unborn Lives Matter.”

According to University President Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, the club was forbidden from using the flyers because they were “bigotry…under the cover of free speech,” meant to “provoke” members of the Black Lives Matter movement.

DePaul College Republicans Vice President John Minster told Campus Reform that his group wanted to use the “Unborn Lives Matter” flyers to draw members to their club meetings, but had to submit the design to the Office of Student Involvement for approval.

OSI Director Amy Mynaugh was out of town during the approval process, however, and the design proposal made it all the way to President Holtschneider.

Holtschneider not only declined to approve the flyers, but sent a letter to the entire university body explaining that the pro-life posters constituted “bigotry” and were not considered free speech.

The letter from President Holtschneider reads in part:

DePaul is a private Catholic institution, and we also are part of the academy.  By our nature, we are committed to developing arguments and exploring important issues that can be steeped in controversy and, oftentimes, emotion.  Yet there will be times when some forms of speech challenge our grounding in Catholic and Vincentian values.  When that happens, you will see us refuse to allow members of our community to be subjected to bigotry that occurs under the cover of free speech.  In fact, you have seen this in past months, as we have declined to host a proposed speaker and asked students to redesign a banner that provokes the Black Lives Matter movement.

Some people will say that DePaul’s stance unfairly silences speech to appease a crowd.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  As we experienced last spring, it’s not difficult to agree that there is a difference between a thoughtful discussion about immigration and a profane remark about Mexicans scrawled in the Quad; or between a panel on racial climate and a noose — a powerful symbol of violence and hatred — outside a residence hall.  In both recent cases, the first, we encourage; the second, we abhor.

Because co-opting a topical phrase to express support for the Church’s pro-life stance is apparently “provocative” – the “provocation” outweighing the moral question at stake in the eyes of DePaul University.

And putting up a poster declaring that “Unborn Lives Matter” – the clearly stated and strongly affirmed position of the Catholic Church, the institution with which DePaul is inseparably affiliated – is not a statement of moral purpose, but is instead deemed the equivalent of a “profane remark about Mexicans scrawled in the Quad”.

The letter continues:

If you read DePaul’s Guiding Principles on Speech and Expression, you will see that our Vincentian values were in the forefront six years ago when these guidelines were developed.  Though a group of your own DePaul colleagues are giving them a fresh look for updates, the current guiding principles still apply.  I encourage you to read the entire document to gain a better understanding of the balance between our values and speech.  In particular, I ask you to reflect on these sentences: “We accept that there is a distinction between being provocative and being hurtful.  Speech whose primary purpose is to wound is inconsistent with our Vincentian and Catholic values.”

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Disagreements will happen on important issues—many that are personal to members of our community for whom race, immigration, gender disparities, religious beliefs and economic privilege are more than conversation topics; they are part of an inescapable lived experience.  Students and others will almost certainly continue to explore and seek the exact limits of our tolerance for free expression when that expression is meant to cause distress.  Certainly, everyone is allowed to have their opinions on these topics.  I simply ask when you are expressing your opinion that you respect the difference between a reasoned discussion and words whose primary purpose is to wound.  I also ask that the university community refuse to “rise to the bait” in those moments when speech may become uncomfortable or even exasperating, but falls within the bounds of the academy’s commitment to full and robust debate.

Because hurt feelings are far more important than abortion. And the omniscient president and administrators of DePaul university can look clearly inside the human heart and discern whether a given student intends to provoke, offend or hurt when determining their right to speak.

This is ludicrous. Holtschneider made no attempt to speak with the DePaul College Republicans before censoring their poster and banning it from campus – he high handedly presumed to know what motivated them to speak out in favour of the rights of the unborn, and then publicly find them to be morally deficient and their motives cynical. That is effectively the judgment on their character that Holtschneider passed by revoking their right to express themselves – that they are Evil Racists more interested in “provoking” certain members of the black community than witnessing to their faith and speaking their consciences.

The National Review rages:

As a private, Catholic university, DePaul is not explicitly obliged to respect students’ free-speech rights like a public university would be. But it is disturbing that the university would choose not to do so, and even more disturbing that DePaul’s administration justified their decision by invoking the university’s “Catholic values.” It is hard to believe that the phrase “Unborn Lives Matter” is in violation of a Catholic university’s values when, in fact, this phrase ought to embody them.

This is not the first time that DePaul’s administration has been confused about the proper application of its Catholic guidelines. For instance, one of the university’s 2016 commencement speakers was Martin Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, who in his professional capacity has advocated same-sex marriage and radical gender theory, and opposed religious-freedom legislation that would have enabled Catholic institutions to uphold their values. DePaul was also found to have referred students to jobs and internships at Planned Parenthood, and to have promoted social-media posts celebrating the Supreme Court decision recognizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

While it is the university administration’s prerogative to take these actions — even though they openly conflict with established Church doctrine — it is appalling that the same administration would invoke its Catholic principles to ban pro-life flyers from campus. It is evident that Holtschneider and his staff are intent upon silencing conservative student voices, even if they must wield their Catholic identity as a cudgel to do so.

It is particularly depressing that the SJW snowflakes of DePaul have their grubby hands on the university’s Guiding Principles on Speech and Expression – we can safely assume that the next version of this document will be even more restrictive, and prioritise the feelings and “identities” of coddled students even more strongly over the imperative for debate and the quest for truth. Which will be some achievement, considering the current version already draws a specious “distinction between being provocative and being hurtful.

But one can only be so angry at the students themselves. As this blog has explored repeatedly, these thin-skinned students are very much a product of their environment and their upbringing. They are the result of Everyone Wins A Prize schooling, parental paranoia about a child abductor lurking on every corner and the endless, nauseating praise for the most pedestrian of accomplishments and the corrosive idea, inculcated at every stage of their academic lives, that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will kill me stone dead”.

Far more to blame are the adults – the liberal college professors now struggling to stay ahead of their students in the race to be ever more strident, intolerant and authoritarian in response to ideas they dislike, and the spineless university administrators who would sooner collaborate with the new regime and stab academic freedom in the back than push back against their millennial masters.

But special criticism has to be levied at the leader of a Catholic educational institution – somebody with Reverend in their title – who prioritises the prickly feelings of Black Lives Matter (and their proprietary sense of ownership over the phrase “[insert interest group] lives matter”) over and above the Church’s teaching on a core social issue.

I happen to be Catholic myself. Personally, I do believe that All Lives Matter. I believe that life begins at conception, and that therefore abortion inherently means the taking of a life. But I also believe that this is also sometimes the lesser of two evils, or an understandable choice in an impossibly difficult situation. As well as the commonly given exceptions – rape, incest, the life of the mother – I believe that abortion should be a legal, safe and much, much rarer. And part of making abortion much rarer must surely involve easier access to (and education about) contraception. One of the best ways to stop new lives being discarded before they begin is to prevent the hideous situation from arising in the first place.

I recognise that all of the above places me in conflict with the church’s teaching, and that is something which I have to wrestle with. I’m reasonably sure that I am right, and that my viewpoint will be vindicated and adopted by the Church in the fullness of time, but that doesn’t lessen the sense of unease at being out of communion with my religion on such an emotive issue.

But here’s the difference: I don’t expect external authority figures to step in, suppressing the free speech of others to prevent my guilty conscience from being pricked. Nor do I expect them to do so because the language they choose to use in affirming traditional Church teaching “appropriates” the name of another cause I happen to care about, or which impacts me. I can think and write what I want – I have no business limiting the freedom of others to do the same.

And students at a Catholic university, of all places, should be free to affirm Catholic teaching through articles, peaceful protest and harmless posters without fear of censorship by craven university authorities – spineless, degenerate cowards who would sooner suppress freedom of speech and publicly reject their own religion’s teaching than risk the slightest offence to their new deity: the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics.

Bigotry “under the cover of free speech”? That is to be DePaul University’s sneering, dismissive and hostile attitude toward young conservative Catholics who dare to affirm the teachings of their faith?

People of faith should pray for the censored College Republicans (whether or not you agree with their cause), and for DePaul University. Because religion counts for nothing if it has to disregard doctrine and bend the knee to social fads and new secular shibboleths.

And I don’t know how much longer the academy can plausibly survive the continued ruthless letting of its most vital lifeblood – the right to free speech.

 

Safe Space Notice - 2

Top Image: National Review

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