The Seven Sacraments of Secularism

New Advent Bishop Thomas Doran August 17, 2006

I want to touch on this matter before we get too close to the November madness. As human beings, as citizens of a “first world country,” as Americans, and as Catholics, most importantly, we have to take count of the circumstances in which we live. We know that the only creatures of God that outlast time are those created having intellect and will. All other things, with the passage of time, break up or break down.

Many of the issues that confront us are serious, and we know by now that the political parties in our country are at loggerheads as to how to solve them. We know, for instance, that adherents of one political party would place us squarely on the road to suicide as a people.

The seven “sacraments” of their secular culture are abortion, buggery, contraception, divorce, euthanasia, feminism of the radical type, and genetic experimentation and mutilation. These things they unabashedly espouse, profess and promote. Their continuance in public office is a clear and present danger to our survival as a nation.
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Comments

  1. I’m not sure what to make of New Advent. While I used to think it a useful resource on all things Catholic, I’m uncertain that one can rely on objective statements of morality from this site. Regarding the infamous Torquemada, who by New Advent’s own admission was instrumental in expelling most Jews from Spain and in the fiery deaths of least 2,000 others: “[w]hether [his] ways of ferreting out and punishing heretics were justifiable is a matter that has to be decided … chiefly by an inquiry into their necessity for the preservation of Christian Spain.” (emphasis mine).

    “Necessity”?

    While I, too, oppose, genetic mutilation (although I’m uncertain what they consider this to be) in addition to the acts of abortion and killing the infirm, such commentaries lead me to wonder whether New Advent is capable of recognizing evil when committed by the members of the religious organization it supports. I don’t see how one can not condemn such a past while simultaneously critiquing modern militant Islam, for example.

  2. I think New Advent just reprinted it. The article originally appeared in a Roman Catholic Diocese newspaper.

  3. Jim Holman says:

    With all respect to the bishop, I think he has a screw loose.

    Supposedly one of the “seven sacraments” of secularism is euthanasia. But euthanasia is illegal in the U.S. Nobody even supports it. Oh, I suppose you could scrape up a few people who would support it, in the same way that you can scrape up a few people who will support anything. But according to him, euthanasia is one of the things that “they unabashedly espouse, profess and promote.” But who are “they?” Again, people will advocate for anything, but so what? You can find people who want to bomb abortion clinics. But does that make abortion clinic bombing a Christian “sacrament?”

    But the truly strange thing is that if you look at the states that have the most poverty, teenage pregnancies, worst health, etc. those are overwhelmingly the socially conservative Red states, even though these states in effect are subsidized by the blue states. Last I read life expectency in Texas was slightly less than in Cuba. It seems that, whatever their other faults, secularists tend to be healthier and happier.

    Supposedly “contraception” is one of the banes of existence. Well, someone should tell the Orthodox church about that, since they don’t ban contraception. Likewise with divorce. And someone should also tell the tens of millions of conservative protestants about the evils of divorce, since their divorce rate is at least as high as the rest of society.

    I get so tired of all of this faux-Christian blather about the evil liberals and secularists — blather that rarely identifies specific individuals or positions. It’s just a bunch of hogwash designed to get people to enlist in the “culture war,” and to come to despise their neighbors and co-workers as embodiments of evil.

  4. Dean Scourtes says:

    Jim: I remember you pointing out that Massachussets, the most liberal state politically, also has the nation’s lowest Divorce and Homicide rates. Conversely, in the Bible-thumping South, divorce and homicide rates are the highest in the nation.

    So the sick, malevolent attempt by this author to somehow conflate liberal politics with personal immorality is nothing more than garbage and balf-faced deceit.

  5. You have to be careful with making numerical comparisons of divorce rates between states. Some of the states with higher divorce rates also have higher marriage rates, suggesting less cohabitation (which would not appear in either side of the ledger), etc. Also, you have to consider age. The rust belt probably has an older population than the South or Southwest, thus less likely to divorce. I would hold back from affirming a causal connection without a very hard look at the numbers.

    As for the murder rates, it seems a mixed bag to me: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/article.php?scid=12&did=169#MRord.

    In any case, I think both of you are missing the point. The author isn’t attacking liberalism as such, but secularism. That abortion, sodomy, euthanasia (Jim’s insistence that is just isn’t so notwithstanding), fetal mutilation, etc. are the dominant moral positions of the secular left is indisputable. (“Sacraments” isn’t the right word, but the implication that these positions articulate a religious/moral vision is correct.)

    Further, that the Democratic party is captive to the secular left is also indisputable, although some Democratics are bravely mounting a counter-offensive (Dr. Alvida King, for example). Nat Henthoff, another prominent liberal (who puts Greeley to shame, BTW) has argued the same point for years being especially critical of the slavish tributes the Democratic party pays to the abortion lobby. He correctly argues this is a betrayal of the moral principles of the old Democrats.

    The Bishop did not put his points as elegantly as you might have wanted, but his overall critique is correct. Read George Weigel’s The Cube and the Cathedral or Robert P. George’s A Clash of Orthodoxies for a more substantive treatment of these themes. Further, the argument that secularism has weakened European resolve to the Islamic jihad (cultural and otherwise) is also indisputable. That it could happen here ought not to be in serious dispute either.

  6. Jim Holman says:

    Fr. Hans writes: “You have to be careful with making numerical comparisons of divorce rates between states.”

    But I think the evidence is largely in. If you look at the totality of factors — health, divorce, poverty, and so on — the blue states tend to come out ahead.

    I think this exposes the weakness of these kinds of arguments, from the perspective of a philosophical strategy. Remember, philosophically the more extreme argument is always harder to make than the more modest argument.

    The extreme argument, in my opinion, is that the secular “sacraments” identified by the Bishop are immoral. Of course, I do not share his opinion. But if you want to claim that all of these things the Bishop talks about will bring about the death of civilization as we know it, that is a very difficult argument to make.

    The Bishop’s argument is basically utilitarian argument. He says that we should avoid these things so as to preserve society. I think the more modest, and thus stronger argument, is that these things are immoral, regardless of their effect on society.

    And frankly, isn’t that the Christian position anyway? Not that something is wrong because, in a utilitarian sense, it has a bad effect, but that it is wrong in itself, because it is immoral, regardless of the effect. For example, it is wrong to lie to someone, regardless of whether it has any bad effect on society at all. In the Christian worldview, as I understand it, the rightness or wrongness of an act is primarily a spiritual, not a utilitarian consideration.

  7. I would say that liberalism is the soil from which the above mentioned ills grows. Sure, a good dose of liberalism is a good for a society, as it creates an ongoing dialogue with the ‘way things have always been done’. Today’s form of liberalism, however, has become pretty corrosive.

    But the truly strange thing is that if you look at the states that have the most poverty, teenage pregnancies, worst health, etc. those are overwhelmingly the socially conservative Red states, even though these states in effect are subsidized by the blue states.

    I remember you pointing out that Massachussets, the most liberal state politically, also has the nation’s lowest Divorce and Homicide rates.

    Let’s take a closer look at some of these stats:

    http://www.american-partisan.com/cols/2002/antle/qtr2/0610.htm

    I hate to interrupt the love fest, but these statements are so ironic. They help show how liberal policies often harm the very people they wish to assist. For example, a generation ago, liberals introduced the social experiment of no-fault divorce with assurances that life would be happier for everyone. Even the children of divorced families were supposed to ‘bounce back’ and be happier than ever. Now, after a generation of broken homes, we hear studies that the effects divorce has on children is surpassed only by war. Read the liberal legacy and weep.

    Family:
    http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/civilization/cc0039.html

    Appropiately enough, the success (or perhaps failure) of no-fault divorce causes modern-day liberals to push for gay marriage. After all, ‘half of marriages end in divorce anyway. What’s the big deal?’ Talk about circular logic.

    As for poverty, Theodore Dalrymple covers the difference between the dream and the nightmare pretty well in his book: Life on the Bottom.

    .

  8. Christopher says:

    “I hate to interrupt the love fest, but these statements are so ironic. They help show how liberal policies often harm the very people they wish to assist.”

    Now that I am a good 8 months out of New Orleans, I have been thinking more about the culture there. Rush said something that made me think yesterday when commenting on Mayor Nagin’s comments that “racism” was driving a slow reconstruction effort by the feds (I suppose we were supposed to have the whole city rebuilt by now). Rush said:

    “New Orleans should have been the liberal utopia. Liberals ran the place for years …”

    New Orleans was (is?) a great place to see the “Great Society” in action, and it shows not only how the promise is unfulfilled, but how much positive harm these programs have caused. And yet, I am sure Dean would use Louisiana as an example of “red vs. blue”. If only Massachusetts had left it alone…

  9. Note 8. Yup. New Orleans is the penultimate example of institutionalized poverty — including the cultural pathologies that goes with it. Wordy writes, “Read the liberal legacy and weep.” You better believe it. A Culture of Failure Taints Black America from today’s Washingon Post.

  10. Jim Holman says:

    Wordy writes: “I would say that liberalism is the soil from which the above mentioned ills grows.”

    Fior the religious right, liberalism is the new Satan. Liberalism is seemingly responsible for all evil, but no good. Conservatism, on the other hand, is the new Holy Spirit, responsible for all good but no evil.

    In fact, when some unfortunate thing comes along that really can’t be laid at the feet of the liberals, people on the religious right become disoriented. For example, after several megabytes of argument, Glen finally persuaded a couple of folks here that the Iraq war was a bad idea promoted by conservatives. Well, it was like people here didn’t know what to do with that. It was like their whole worldview had been disrupted. The idea that conservatives might do something wrong! The idea that liberals weren’t responsible! Of course, they were able to take some comfort in the fact that “liberal” politicians voted for the war, but still . . . . .

  11. Note 10. No, liberalism (contemporary liberal/leftism) is not the new Satan. It does have a dismal record of success however, and is often quite aggressive in its goals. See: How the Left Was Won.

    As for the war in Iraq, I don’t recall anyone mentioning liberals, except to say that the liberal approach to Islam, foreign policy, and the like would be disasterous. Glen’s point, and I agree, is that conservatives can be unreflective on issues simply because the view is not liberal. This does not translate into an acceptance of the liberal position.

    Liberalism is having a tough time coming up with ideas. That’s why conservative infighting and realignment isn’t translating into liberal gains, so far anyway.

  12. Jim Holman says:

    Fr. Hans writes: “No, liberalism (contemporary liberal/leftism) is not the new Satan.”

    It seems to me that it is. Liberalism is seen as the source of virtually every evil in the world, either as a direct cause or as a contributing factor. It is a kind of amorphous thing, always ruining things for the Good People.

    Fr. Hans: “It does have a dismal record of success however . . .

    Well, sure, if you ignore all the good things. In this venue there has been much criticism of welfare. Certainly there are problems with welfare. But we don’t have people dying in the streets from easily-treatable diseases. We don’t have people dying from hunger. We don’t have elderly people dying in the streets. We don’t have families begging in the streets for handouts. And in case you haven’t noticed, there has been tremendous reform of welfare in recent years.

    Public education has also been criticized, and certainly there are problems there too. But at least we have something to offer. In the past I have mentioned a friend who came here from El Salvador after his parents were murdered by right-wing death squads. He told me that when he came here school lunches were amazing to him, because you didn’t have to be hungry all day. He was amazed that textbooks were provided. Another fellow from Nicaragua told me that the only way he was able to go to school there was because of the charity of a well-to-do neighbor. This same fellow didn’t have shoes until he was eight years old.

    So yeah, liberalism really sucks, until you look at the alternative. Workers compensation sucks, until you look at countries without it. Vocational rehabilitation sucks, until you see what life is like without it. Medicare sucks, as long as you don’t mind old people doing without health care.

    I will readily acknowledge that conservatives have played a crucial role in making many of these programs more effective and more accountable. I believe that the liberals, conservatives, and moderates all have a role in crafting social programs that make our country a better place to live. And it seems to me that this is a big difference between you and me. You seem to hold that only extreme conservative ideology has anything to offer. How many articles have we seen posted to Orthodoxy Today that denounce liberals and liberalism? Is it hundreds? Probably so. With all respect, I think we need everyone, not just a small slice of the political spectrum.

  13. Note 12. Jim, I draw a huge distinction between the liberalism of old and the liberalism of new. I call it the “hard left” usually, and generally I mean the materialism and moral relativism that the Democratic leadership is in thrall to.

    The successes you attribute to the hard left cannot be rightfully appropriated by them. Kennedy’s liberalism is a world apart from, say, Pelosi liberalism, just as Martin Luther King’s liberalism is a world apart from Jesse Jackson’s.

    I focus on the materialism and moral relativism of contemporary liberalism which has unleased a storm of cultural destruction over the last four decades. It is incorrect to claim the progress of decades previous as its progenitor.

  14. Jim,

    I think a better way to phrase this instead of ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ is ‘statist’ versus ‘non-statist.’ Piecemeal social programs aimed at correcting market deficiencies and reforming bad practices are compatible with a free society. A certain minimum income for the elderly, a level of free medical care for the poor, some form of educational assistance at the community level.

    Non-statists fall along a continuum as to what they find acceptable, but they are generally united in their commitment to be limited view of the uses of government to cure societal ills. A typical liberal response, for example, to the Enron crisis was greater regulation. It was not to demand the nationalization of all industry. Most common sense people get the fact that government is better at regulating than creating or building.

    In the 3rd World, the government is typically run like a mafia for the benefit of the rich and connected. That is why the El Salvadorans and others are kept poor. The government is a kleptocracy that benefits the rich at the expense of everyone else. We haven’t had that in the U.S., not to that extent. By maintaining a robust free market that is independent of the government, we have achieved a level of prosperity that is the envy of the world.

    Outside of the extreme Libertarian wing, I don’t think anyone is actually saying that all government services should be abolished. A lot of think that the allocation of funds from Washington to the states is a gross waste of money, but no one is trying to dismantle all governmental services.

    That being said, however, we have a real problem with Statists who might wear ‘left’ or ‘right’ as their political label, but are united in their common belief in the power of the state to right all wrongs and cure all evils. Leftist statists want to vastly increase the power of the central government in order to ‘cure’ (not merely ameliorate) a vast number of social ills that have been with us since the dawn of time and will never be ended.

    This list of ills has expanded far beyond just poverty, but now embraces such things as ‘racism’ or ‘homophobia.’ It is not enough to merely conform outwardly, the leftist statists now want the government in charge of re-educating the citizenry to actually eliminate aberrent thought.

    But right-wing statists are no better. Right-wing statists want to vastly increase the power of the state in order to fight various foreign enemies. They also want thoughts and actions they find abhorrent to be controlled and punished. The Right-wing statists also have become ‘big government’ types, now actively pushing the central state to address a variety of social ills/sins with the same government programs that earlier generations of conservatives made fun of. Even when they eschew nation-building campaigns at home, many right-wing statists embrace the notion that while the federal government shouldn’t run the economy of the U.S., it is exactly appropriate for it to run the economy of Iraq.

    Central planning is threat to liberty, whether it is the left or the right which delivers it. The state has a role to play, but it should be limited and watched carefully. I am worried about the inflammatory rhetoric on both sides which only leads to more centralized power and to greater potential for catastrophe.

    1950′s Hubert Humphrey type liberals are really moderates who believe in a certain amount of government regulation. They were and are typically Christian people. I can disagree with them in good faith, and then go have a beer. We usually argue over means, not ends. Statists, however, are idealogues with whom I can’t really gain any common ground.