The musings and meandering thoughts of a crotchety old man as he observes life in the world and in a small, rural town in South East Nebraska. My Pledge-Nulla dies sine linea-Not a day with out a line.
Who is this 'community' that determines such bans, and what evidence did they use to determine that their 1.7 billion unique visitors per month should be protected from the dangers of LifeSiteNews?
LifeSiteNews has been permanently banned on YouTube. Click HERE to sign up to receive emails when we add to our video library.
April 30, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) – The other day, I added LifeSiteNews to an article on Wikipedia about people and groups who have been suspended by YouTube (YouTube suspensions). When I attempted to add a link to LifeSiteNews, I got an error message stating that I was adding a link to a “deprecated source, generally considered unreliable after discussion by the community.”
I published my changes without the link but did so grudgingly. Who is this “community” that determines such things, and what evidence did they use to determine that their 1.7 billion unique visitors per month should be protected from the dangers of LifeSiteNews?
You can read the discussion the community had here.
My take on their discussion is that the Wikipedia “community” trusts so-called “fact-checking” sites like snopes.com blindly while ignoring the bias of such sites. For instance, the largely derogatory LifeSiteNews Wikipedia page shares an article from Snopes that slanderously states LifeSiteNews is a “known purveyor of misleading information.”
In this article, Snopes discusses an article by LifeSiteNews about Georgia ACLU employee Maya Dillard Smith, who, the article alleges, retired from the ACLU after her daughters were disturbed by transgenders in their bathrooms. Snopes does not say the article was false or even misleading. It just calls the article “unproven.” Evidently, fact-checking sites can now merely label something as unproven and feel justified in calling an organization a “purveyor of misleading information.” The truth is always misleading if you are determined to go down the wrong path!
Another “fact-checking” website called “Media Bias” claims that LifeSiteNews is a “questionable source.” They rate LifeSiteNews as far-right “for story selection that always favors evangelical Christianity”! If they had bothered to open the LifeSiteNews website, they would know it presents more of a Catholic worldview than an evangelical Protestant one.
It’s a shame that fact-checkers know so little about Christianity but yet they are the ones who presume to tell their readers what is true and what’s a lie. “Media Bias” also rates LifeSiteNews as “questionable based on the promotion of conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, and many failed fact checks.” All five of their so-called failed “fact checks” can be dismantled if only given the chance, but there’s no room for rebuttal or defense. For instance, one of them is another Snopes article about LifeNews, NOT LifeSiteNews. Apparently, fact checkers can be as sloppy as they want and the Wikipedia community will trust them before they trust LifeSiteNews.
The founder of Wikipedia, Larry Sanger, left the organization years ago, calling it “Broken beyond repair.”
After my experience trying to edit the Wikipedia articles about LifeSiteNews, I think Mr. Sanger must be right.
Wikipedia talks a nice game about being a charitable, unbiased organization. But it’s worth noting that the website’s budget is now $126 million and its list of benefactors includes the likes of the Johnson & Johnson Matching Gifts Program, Pfizer Foundation Matching Gifts Program, and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Perhaps that, more than anything else, helps explain why the “community” has been deprecating links to LifeSiteNews.
Readers interested in becoming Wikipedia editors can learn about the process here, here, and here.
In Robert Hugh Benson’s fiction, the struggle has ended with the end of days. But for us, and for each generation of Christians, the struggle begins anew.
“I am perfectly aware,” apologized Fr. Robert Hugh Benson in the preface to Lord of the World, “that this is a terribly sensational book.” But for fans of dystopian apocalyptic novels, no apology is necessary: that’s part of the fun. It’s a gripping, dark novel, and a famous one, especially after Pope Francis endorsed it in a homily in 2013. We might see it as a deadly-serious precursor to Chesterton’s The Flying Inn, or a prophetic portrait of modernity without God. Benson sets his novel in the twenty-first century, and offers both a timely encouragement and an urgent challenge to today’s Catholics, who face not only external opposition but also the internal wounds of corruption and infidelity within the Church.
Benson’s futuristic novel, published in 1907, stands apart from the usual dystopian fare on our big screens and bestseller lists. Yes, it tells of man’s abuse of scientific progress; yes, it describes the struggle of individuals against an oppressive socialist structure; sure, it features flying machines and a new world order. But Fr. Benson—an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism and whose prolific output included 15 other novels—understands these things as part of the battle between Heaven and Earth. It’s a good reminder that, as St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.
The imagined future of Christianity seems grim. When Benson’s novel begins, mankind has reached the twenty-first century. Secular humanism, powered by freemasonry, has largely triumphed in the West. Socialism and materialism govern the world. The universities have been closed. Europe, Asia, and America have divided the globe between them. The Church in Lord of the World undergoes widespread apostasy: lay people, and even priests and bishops deny Christ and embrace the supposed divinity of the human race. Much of the world has turned away from God, leaving only a remnant Church. Will Christ’s Church endure? Will God at last defeat and imprison the Evil One? The answer, for Benson, is yes. But the victory of the Lord gets worked out—as it did on the Cross—in the patient, humble endurance of suffering and death.
The novel centers on a faithful priest, Father Percy Franklin, who struggles to minister to the remaining Christians in England. As the novel opens, the world stands on the brink of a war between East and West, until—to the relief of all mankind—a mysterious and charismatic American statesman single-handedly negotiates world peace and a final end to war. The man’s name is Julian Felsenburgh; he is thirty-three years old, and he begins to inspire fanatical devotion around the planet. Everywhere he goes, he commands obedience and love; crowds fall silent at his presence, and one by one the governments of the world submit themselves to his rule. Little by little, he emerges as both the antichrist and a type of secular anti-pope. His first name Julian means “descended from the god Jove,” but it also evokes Julian the Apostate, the notorious fourth century Roman Emperor who tried to reestablish paganism. His last name Felsenburgh means, loosely, “rock fortress.” Thus Julian Felsenburgh is hailed both as a divine figure and a rock upon which the secular humanist church—complete with neopagan rituals—may be built.
Where is God in all this, wonders Father Franklin, as he struggles to understand the success of the enemies of God, and the apparent failure of the Church to hold its own:
What was the Catholic Church made for if not to convert the world, and why then had Almighty God allowed it, on the one side, to dwindle to a handful, and on the other, the world to find its peace apart from Him?
It’s an unexpectedly prophetic question for Catholics in the real twenty-first century. As if the opposition of the world were not enough, now we find the Church undermined from within by corruption, scandal, sexual violence. Benson’s answer echoes as a challenge to Christians in any time of persecution or difficulty for the Church militant: a radical re-dedication of ourselves to Christ.
In the novel, this takes the form of a heroic new religious order, called for by the Pope: the Order of Christ Crucified, open to all the faithful, male or female, lay or priest. In addition to the three evangelical counsels of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, the Order has a fourth: the desire for martyrdom. From Rome, the last earthly haven of Christianity, the Order streams forth. Even married couples part company to devote themselves to the order, and
the smoke of burning went up in the squares where household property, rendered useless by the vows of poverty, were consumed by their late owners; and daily long trains moved out from the station outside the walls carrying jubilant loads of those who were despatched by the Pope’s delegates to be the salt of men, consumed in their function, and leaven plunged in the vast measures of the infidel world.
The reports of martyrdoms come soon:
In Dusseldorf eighteen men and boys, surprised at their singing of Prime in the church of Saint Laurence, had been cast down one by one into the city-sewer, each chanting as he vanished: “Christi Fili Dei vivi miserere nobis,” and from the darkness had come up the same broken song till it was silenced with stones.
When the enemies of God bomb Rome out of existence, the handful of surviving cardinals secretly elect a new Vicar. The Church endures, undergoing a radical simplification of its hierarchy and its liturgical practices. With now only twelve cardinals, like the twelve Disciples of Christ, the Church must focus only on essentials: evangelization, true doctrine, and the true worship of God. As the Church goes underground, some
ritual requirements were relaxed; mass might be said with any decent vessels of any material capable of destruction, such as glass or china; bread of any description might be used; and no vestments were obligatory except the thin thread that now represented the stole; lights were nonessential; none need wear the clerical habit; and rosary, even without beads, was always permissible instead of the Office.
In Benson’s portrait, the Church returns to the simplicity of early Christianity, stripping away the pomp and circumstance of Rome. As such, he challenges Catholics today to recognize which things are truly essential to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Church He founded on Earth.
Finally, Father Franklin, caught up in the heart of this spiritual and earthly drama, finds himself in Nazareth, while Felsenburgh, the apparent “Lord of the World,” launches the final persecution of the faith, a law forbidding the practice of all religion, backed with the penalty of death. As the net draws closer around him, Father Franklin rides out and finds himself gazing upon a nearby plain: Megiddo, also known as Armageddon. In the climactic final confrontation, the Church of God will go out to meet the enemy as a Eucharistic procession, in a battle that will bring about the end of the world.
In Robert Hugh Benson’s fiction, the struggle has ended with the end of days. But for us, and for each generation of Christians, the struggle begins anew. We may not need a new religious order. We may simply need Christians to radically re-dedicate themselves to imitating Christ. As we face this crisis in the Catholic Church, let us imitate Benson’s “Order of Christ Crucified,” whose fidelity to God exceeds even their love of life. As the names of these faithful martyrs come rolling in, Benson describes them thus: “It was the first word of God’s reply to the world’s challenge.”
At dinner last night on a restaurant terrace on the Buda side of this city, I met an American conservative who recently moved to Budapest in despair over the state of our country. He’s trying to figure out where in the Visegrad countries he’s going to settle. “America is over,” he said, angrily.
Earlier on Saturday, out and about in my neighborhood, I found myself in conversation with a Hungarian conservative. I mentioned that a lot of disaffected Americans on the Right look to Hungary and the other Visegrad countries with longing, even envy. My interlocutor said this is a mistake.
“You all need to be careful about how you think of us. We are not that far behind you, especially in the younger generations. This country, Hungary, is not a religious country anymore. We are just as materialistic as you are. Maybe we haven’t fallen as far as you all have, but we don’t have the antibodies anymore to resist the viruses that are eating your American brains. It’s just a matter of time.”
I thought of these two conversations just now when I read Ross Douthat’s column about the “two crises of conservatism.” The first crisis, he says, is that Republicans don’t know how to win elections anymore. This will eventually be solved, just as the Democrats solved the same problem for themselves eventually. The second crisis is much deeper and more destructive. Douthat:
What does it mean to conserve the family in an era when not just the two-parent household but childbearing and sex itself are in eclipse? What does it mean to defend traditional religion in a country where institutional faith is either bunkered or rapidly declining? How do you defend localism when the internet seems to nationalize every political and cultural debate? What does the conservation of the West’s humanistic traditions mean when pop repetition rules the culture, and the great universities are increasingly hostile to even the Democratic-voting sort of cultural conservative?
At least you can still defend the heroic entrepreneur, say the libertarians — except that the last great surge of business creativity swiftly congealed into the stultifying monopolies of Silicon Valley, which are leading the general corporate turn against cultural and religious forms of conservatism as well.
This set of problems explains the mix of radicalism, factionalism, ferment and performance art that characterizes the contemporary right. What are we actually conserving anymore? is the question, and the answers range from the antiquarian (the Electoral College!) to the toxic (a white-identitarian conception of America) to the crudely partisan (the right to gerrymander) to the most basic and satisfying: Whatever the libs are against, we’re for.
On the center and the liberal center-right, meanwhile, there’s a sense that the way out of this mess is for decent conservatives to recommit to the liberal order — “to organize and draw a bright line between themselves and the illiberals on their own side,” as my colleague David Brooks put it this week.
But that might not be enough. In the end, conservatives need to believe the things they love can flourish within the liberal order, and it isn’t irrational to turn reactionary if things you thought you were conserving fall away.
Well, that’s pretty much where I am. But the thing is, there’s no place to escape to. I’ve been coming to Central Europe for three years now, and I’ve been hearing the same things from young Catholic conservatives in these countries that I heard from the Hungarian I chatted with today near the National Museum: what you Americans and western Europeans are today, we will be tomorrow.
Thinking further about that conversation, I recall the Hungarian telling me that the laws having to do with the Sexual Revolution, broadly, are still strict relative to American laws, but the way people actually live is becoming much more lax and tolerant, along the American model. Viktor Orban and his Fidesz party may be in power, said the Hungarian (who supports Orban), but the culture is moving away from what Fidesz stands for. The Hungarian says that absent some kind of religious revival, social conservatives are fighting a losing battle.
RD: When we think of totalitarianism, our models are Nazism or Communism. Happily, the rebirth of either seems very unlikely. That said, many of the cultural and social factors that Hannah Arendt said opened the door for 20th century totalitarianism are also present today — especially radical atomization and loneliness, and the discrediting of familiar hierarchies. Unlike in the last century, liberalism seems not nearly so robust an alternative. What do most people on the left and the right today miss that Houellebecq sees?
LB: One of Houellebecq’s most remarkable qualities is his consistent anti-liberalism—“liberalism” meant here in the classical sense as an idea about human moral and
economic freedom that emerges from the Enlightenment (I’m not referring to left-liberalism in the US). On the one hand, his novels paint a gloomy portrait of the consequences for family and community of the sexual revolution; essentially, they expose the underbelly of a social movement, championed by the modern left, that fancies itself sacrosanct and morally unassailable. So, in the moral sense, and especially vis-à-vis moral concerns surrounding sexuality, his treatment of the sexual revolution has a way of shocking left-liberal sensibilities.
On the other hand, MH is no great advocate for unfettered economic freedom. His novels suggest (or even demonstrate, if that’s a proper term for describing the work fiction does) that moral and economic liberation go hand in hand, and that it’s the very ideas and conditions that allowed for human economic emancipation centuries ago that eventually gave us the sexual revolution and the moral dissolution that arguably followed it (i.e., an increase in the divorce rate, more children born outside of marriage, etc.). The modern right, which likes to sing the praises of the free market but tends also toward moral and religious conservatism, isn’t primed to appreciate this rapprochement of material and moral license.
Ultimately, Houellebecq’s fiction points to a fundamental incoherence in modern, liberal political thought. You don’t get sexual freedom without the sort of economic emancipation free markets allow (it’s hard to multiply sexual partners when, say, you’re totally beholden economically to a spouse. That is, at least not without significant danger to yourself—just read some 19th-century social novels and you’ll see what I mean!). At the same time, you don’t get economic freedom and self-determination without a loosening of the moral constraints that material necessity used to hold in place. In any case, whatever side you’re on politically, the most important thing to understand as far as reading MH is concerned is that both of these visions—human flourishing understood either as economic or moral-sexual liberation—are materialistic and reductive.
And, rather obviously, they also fail adequately to address human beings’ metaphysical needs, which liberalism is content to leave up to the individual. Religion’s purpose, as I see it, is to order collective life sub specie aeternitatis, but you don’t get that when the hard work of metaphysical consolation becomes a private affair. In the vacuum, alternatives inevitably arise, some of the most pernicious of which we see today: ethnic and racial identitarianism, religious extremism and terrorism, and a tolerance and even embrace of totalitarian rhetoric across the political spectrum. I’m synthesizing a bit on Houellebecq’s behalf, but I think this vision can help us make sense of much of the tension we’re seeing today.
RD: Though he’s not a religious man, Houellebecq believes as a matter of sociological fact that no society can endure without religion. By “religion,” let’s use a broad definition that means “metaphysical framework” — though as you point out in your book, Houellebecq believes that transcendence itself is not enough; a resilient religion also has to offer some form of immortality. Is his case persuasive to you?
LB: Here it’s important, I think, to distinguish between religion as a human phenomenon and the specific case of Christianity in Europe. I don’t think such a thing as a “society without religion,” in the sense of having a metaphysical framework, really exists; to me, that’s akin to imagining a society without a language, or some notion of kinship, or ways of preparing food. I’m not an anthropologist, but it seems clear that any human society worthy of the adjective “human” is going to articulate some metaphysical system that makes sense of reality and offers consolation and a sense of meaning in the midst of natural vicissitude.
In the case of Christianity in Europe, I think the question to ask is something like this: can a civilization maintain its identity if it sheds its native religion? Houellebecq doesn’t think so, and neither do I. This isn’t a political or polemical point. Imagine taking as an anthropological platitude the claim that human beings will be religious and, moreover, that civilizations are built upon the metaphysical systems they create (or which are revealed to them, to give credit to the metaphysical on its own terms). It’s obvious from such an assumption that the collapse of the metaphysics entails the eventual collapse of everything else. This should be deeply alarming to anyone who cares about the West’s tradition of humanitarianism, which emerges—and it would be wonderful if we could all agree on this—out of the original Judaic notion of imago Dei and later from Christian humanism. Secular humanism has been running for quite some time on the fumes of the Judeo-Christian religious inheritance, but it’s not clear how much longer that can go on.
Honestly, it’s frightening to think what a truly post-Christian West would mean for our basic institutions. I’m not stumping for Christianity here; I just happen to have the intellectual conviction that the analysis of human society begins with religion. If you incline toward Marxian thinking, which looks at things in the diametrically opposed way, you’re going to hate what I’m saying. But that’s how I see it.
We are looking for political solutions to religious problems. Today after the divine liturgy at a local Orthodox church, I found myself walking up Szerb utca (Serb Street) talking to an older man, Nektarios, I had met in the courtyard following services. I told him how much I enjoyed being in Europe.
“Europe is finished,” he sighed. And he went through a short litany of the same problems we’re facing in America, adding a couple particular to here, but all of them adding up to the crisis of a civilization that has lost faith in God and in itself.
(Nektarios also said, “I have a friend in America, from here. He lives in Boston. He is quite old now. He is telling me that the things we all suffered under Communism are now starting to appear in America. Can you believe it?” I assured my new friend that I could indeed believe it.)
Look, by the way, at this slide from a presentation at the Brearley School. Parents are starting to see how the new woke curriculum has turned the girls in the school on each other. My source said the focus on race is trickling out of the classroom and down into text and email chats among students. Now, girls are accusing each other of being racist, on no grounds at all, and friends are criticizing one another’s musical taste as being “too white.” Said my source, “They are playing with fire, making pre-teens and teens obsessed with skin color, race and identity … and now it is bearing bitter fruit.”
From the slide presentation to the Brearley students:
There is nothing necessarily wrong with any of these topics, but taken together, and realizing they are being taught to middle schoolers, these children of the tippy-top elites are being taught to despise their civilization (and themselves) before they’ve learned to love it. Why should they “decenter Europe” in middle school and high school? Everything, or nearly everything, about them, whatever their color, is the result of a culture that began in Europe and the Near East. And yet they are learning from their teachers to hate it. No civilization can survive this. And if you think this is going to stop at the borders of Brearley, or the institutions of the high elites, you are completely ignorant of the power of social media and the Internet, as well as the power of the gatekeepers to professional success.
We cannot keep a liberal democratic society together without belief in values rooted in Christian conviction. It is no accident that liberal democracy arose out of advanced Christian society; read historian Tom Holland’s Dominion for more on this, or this very short 2016 piece he wrote for New Statesman, saying how startled he was to discover that the things he values as a liberal are rooted not in classical culture (which is his area of academic speciality), but in Christianity. What is emerging quite quickly in America is an illiberal left-wing democracy.
The term “illiberal democracy” is often associated with Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, who said in a 2014 speech that he is trying to build an “illiberal democracy” (and note well, he has been democratically elected several times). This passage from that speech gives you a sense of what he’s talking about. When he says “liberal,” he means “classical liberal,” not “the political philosophy of the Democratic Party.” I have highlighted certain lines:
As the matter stands, if we look at the surrounding events from here, we can consider three ways to organize a state that we so far knew, as a starting point: the nation state, the liberal state and then the welfare state, and the question is, what is coming up next? The Hungarian answer is that the era of a workfare state could be next, we want to organize a workfare state, that – as I previously mentioned – will undertake the odium of expressing that in character it is not of a liberal nature. What all this exactly means, Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen, is that we have to abandon liberal methods and principles of organizing a society, as well as the liberal way to look at the world.
I will only mention two dimensions of this — I do not want to get into a longer lecture here — and I only want to touch on them, so that the importance of the matter could be sensed. When it comes to a relationship between two human beings, the fundamental view of the liberal way of organizing a society holds that we are free to do anything that does not violate another person’s freedom. The twenty years of Hungarian environment preceding 2010 was founded on this theoretical, conceptual starting point. It accepted a principle that is otherwise a general principle in Western Europe. In Hungary however, it took us twenty years to be able to articulate the problem, that this idea, besides being very attractive on an intellectual level, yet it is not clear, who is going to say at what point my freedom is violated. And as this does not come without understanding, then it has to be fixed and determined by someone. And as nobody was appointed to decide this, therefore everyday life experience suggested to us that it was the stronger party who decided this.
We constantly felt that the weaker were stepped upon. It was not some kind of an abstract principle of fairness that decided upon conflicts originating from a recognition of mutual freedoms, but what happened is that the stronger party was always right: the stronger neighbor told you where your car entrance is. It was always the stronger party, the bank, that dictated how much interest you pay on your mortgage, changing it as they liked over time. I could enumerate the examples that was the continuous life experience of vulnerable, weak families that had smaller economic protection than others during the last twenty years.
Our suggestion for that, and we will try to build the Hungarian state on this, is that it should not be the organizing principle of Hungarian society. We can’t pass a law for this. These are principles that you are free to do anything that does not violate another’s freedom. Instead the principle should be do not do to others what you would not do to yourself. And we will attempt to found the world we can call the Hungarian society on this theoretical principle, in political thinking, education, in the way we ourselves behave, in our own examples.
If we put this idea in the dimension of the relationship of the individual and the community, so far we were talking about the relationship between two individuals, then we will see that in the past twenty years the established Hungarian liberal democracy could not achieve a number of objectives. I made a short list of what it was not capable of.
You can read the whole thing to get an idea of what he’s talking about. I recall my first visit to Hungary, talking to a working-class Hungarian I’d just met who was explaining the basis of Orban’s appeal. She told me that he had recognized that so much of Hungary’s industry had, in the immediate post-communist period, been sold off to rich foreigners at fire sale prices. This meant that Hungarians themselves did not have control over their nation’s economic destiny. In his first term, Orban made repatriating industry a priority, my interlocutor said.
I pointed out that he has been criticized for putting cronies in charge of those industries. The Hungarian said that maybe there’s truth in that, but that is a second-order problem, one that can be solved here. The important thing is to make sure that a small state like Hungary has as much de facto sovereignty as possible, she said.
Look, I don’t want to get into an argument here about Viktor Orban’s governance. I’m going to be in Budapest for months, so I’m sure that will happen here on this blog. I don’t know enough about his conduct in office to give an overall thumbs-up, or thumbs-down, to the way he has governed. Maybe he has done good things, maybe not good things, or (likely) both. Who am I to say? My point here is to say that Orban realized earlier than most that the liberal democratic model could not conserve some basic things that in his view needed conserving; that it could not protect certain people and institutions that needed to be protected from powerful cultural and economic forces. Whether he has succeeded in his goals is a fair question. I praise him in this column in a narrow sense: to say that Orban asks a variation of Douthat’s question. Douthat says the Right in the US is faced with this question: What are we actually conserving anymore?
Orban’s take at framing the problem might be understood like this: How should we act politically when the structures of liberal democracy end up leaving our people disempowered and vulnerable, and are causing us to lose important virtues?
In America now, liberal democracy is not able to stop the spread through every institution an extremely illiberal ideology that racializes everything, and trains Americans to see each other primarily in racial terms. The vulgar cultural Marxism of Ibram X. Kendi is now spreading into the military, thanks to a senior officer class that has become enamored of it. and into corporate America. There is nothing classically liberal about it — but we are told that the threat to liberal democracy comes from the Right.
We have seen in recent weeks US states considering legislation to bar biological males presenting as females from competing in female sports, which would obviously put biological females at a great disadvantage in competition. States considering this legislation have faced serious threats from major corporations, and the NCAA, all of whom have promised to punish the states if they passed these laws — laws that are simply common sense. Tell me, when a state is not permitted to protect its women athletes and the integrity of fair competition from this trans madness, because of the wrath of Big Business and the NCAA, is liberal democratic society working for them?
Amazon.com has amassed incredible power over our economy. Publishing is one industry key to the success of liberal democracy. Amazon is now deciding not to sell titles critical of transgender ideology. The practical effect of this is that those books will not be published, because no publisher can afford to bring out a book that Amazon cannot sell. Amazon is well within its right to do this, but let’s not be naive here: this move violates the spirit of liberal thought and practice. It is what you would expect in an illiberal democracy of the Left, in which the perceived greater good of the whole society trumps individual rights.
The Left rages at Viktor Orban for his illiberalism (e.g., pulling accreditation and funding for master’s and PhD programs in state universities), but he is acting in what he believes is the public’s interest. (And he’s right about that too: look at how the US is destroying itself with gender ideology and Critical Race Theory, and you’ll see that this stuff is like a deadly virus of the mind.) The Orban government did not ban the subjects, or writing on the subjects. He just said that the state will not pay for it, nor will they permit students to get degrees in that field of Grievance Studies. It was an illiberal move, but a far, far less important one, overall, that Jeff Bezos’s decision “not to sell books that frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness” (which Anderson’s book does not do, incidentally). The world’s largest bookseller, and the one with the power to control what gets published in America, has unilaterally, and within its rights, decided that the public debate over transgenderism is over, and no dissenters need ever be heard from again. Amazon is helping to send any dissent down the memory hole. The major media are too; where are the many op-eds critical of gender ideology, Black Lives Matter, and Critical Race Theory? We used to have a media that was on the Left, generally, but still at least formally dedicated to fairness and broad discussion. No more.
Because we live in an increasingly illiberal left-wing democracy.
And don’t even get me started on the e-mails I have been getting for years from teachers and students in colleges and now high schools, telling me in detail how afraid they are to speak their minds in class, for fear of being denounced as bigots, and punished. Academia is a mainstay institution of liberal democracy. There are no laws forbidding the discussion of these things in academia in America’s liberal democracy. But you can’t do it, de facto, in many places, without risking your livelihood. And few power-holders, in political office or otherwise, will come to your aid. They can rail at Orban for interfering with academic freedom, and they will have a point (though his point is that gender studies are so toxic that suppressing it is in the greater good), but the academic Left in the US has done far, far more than this. They have abandoned liberal democracy, and are now upholding illiberal democracy — from the Left.
The veteran journalist David Rieff is a man of the Left, but he absolutely despises wokeness, because it is illiberal. In a post on his new Substack newsletter, Desire And Fate, Rieff points out that wokeness is being imposed and defended by progressive autocrats. “In global terms, contra the expectations of the 1990s, it is autocracy not democracy that is becoming the rising norm rather than the fated to be eclipsed exception,” he writes. He goes on:
Autocracy and Woke. A marriage made in heaven as far as I’m concerned. And more likely to end in lifelong harmony than in eventual divorce. Wisecracks aside, the liberal democratic order was always going to end, as all political systems end, just as surely as individual human lives do. The only important question was when it would end. Everything I see around me, read, watch, suggests to me that the answer is that it will be sooner rather than later, that is, if it is not ending already.
He’s right. Me, I prefer liberal democracy, but the conditions in America for a healthy liberal democracy — chiefly, tolerance of difference within a stable order — are disappearing. The Left advocates for illiberal democracy, while gaslighting the rest of us into thinking that the Right is the real enemy of liberal democracy. It’s a lie, but a lie that they devoutly believe (Rieff said that liberalism is the only ideology in the history of the world that doesn’t think of itself as an ideology). The question is coming to be: what kind of illiberal order shall we have? Douthat’s line:
In the end, conservatives need to believe the things they love can flourish within the liberal order, and it isn’t irrational to turn reactionary if things you thought you were conserving fall away.
Yes, this exactly. The things I love are increasingly unable to flourish in the liberal order. This is why I want to build the Benedict Option: so that we can try to come through the chaos resiliently. What other choice is there? Again, this is not a political question; this is a religious question. In the liberal democratic order, what exactly are conservatives conserving? I could live with the right to be left alone, but that is no longer on offer.
Huxley believed mass media would spur faster acceptance of a new, secular religion; add a pandemic and a mass conversion event unfolds.
The COVID-19 outbreak raised the authority of medical scientists—who appear to hold the confidence of most Americans, but with notable partisan and demographic differences—to quasi-religious dimensions.
Behavioral protocols such as social distancing, isolating at home, wearing a mask, keeping schools closed, and receiving a vaccine derived moral significance from their purported basis in scientific data, a process that was accelerated by panic and blind faith that the mandates would in fact follow empirical evidence.
In April 2021, more than one year into the pandemic, President Joe Biden made the religious character of COVID-19 mitigation efforts explicit when he described consenting to the Coronavirus vaccine as “a godly thing to do” and a “spiritual and patriotic” duty.
The shift in attitude is best illustrated by the cloying, coy, ethereal expression “believe in science,” favored by Democrat politicians and the very young.
Those who do “believe in science” simply ascribe everything they believe to “science” and you have the imprimatur of the scientific community behind you.
For many of these people, science is now God. So what scientists tell us to do now has moral weight behind it. Never mind that science was used to implement the Holocaust and eugenics all over the globe.
Many of these science advocates are simply leftist fundamentalists using “science” to further an agenda. They hate religion because it is the only thing that stands between them and their secular utopia.
The thing is when one wants to go to Heaven, one changes oneself in order to be worthy of Heaven. When creating utopia, one must change the everyone else to be worthy of living in your utopia.
Vatican executives, including Cardinals who are heads of dicasteries and administrators, will be required to sign a declaration stating that they have no convictions or investigations against them for terrorism, money laundering, or tax evasion. Furthermore, they may not hold assets in tax havens or invest in companies that operate contrary to the doctrine of the Church. These stipulations are laid down in the Pope’s newly-issued Motu Proprio which contains provisions on transparency in the management of public finances. The declaration must be signed upon taking up any office or position and must be repeated every two years. It is also forbidden for all Vatican employees to accept gifts worth more than forty euros. The full text of the document may be found here.
But allow us a brief comment. The new Motu Proprio is incredible. One of two things must be true if the pope is forced to make cardinals and other top managers sign such a declaration: either it means that he has no confidence in the personnel he himself has selected, or else it means that the state of corruption, malpractice, and immorality in the Sacred Palaces is endemic. In either case, the Vatican ruling class comes off badly. Or – and this is a third possibility – the pope has decided the measure pro domo sua, to show the world how great he is at fighting dishonesty. But even in this case the operation deals a devastating blow to the credibility of the Roman Curia, the Vatican City State and the Holy See. But such credibility does not seem to be close to the heart of the current tenant of Santa Marta.
While an outside observer may perhaps believe the media image of an upright Bergoglio committed to the fight against corruption who has been a victim of his corrupt collaborators, those who know the dynamics within the Vatican know that today’s proclamations represent yet another effort to falsify reality, in which what the information that is divulged is actually the exact opposite of what is really going on. Those who, like Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, tried to fight corruption and worked effectively to clean up the budget of the Vatican City State (or Governorate), were “promoted” (promoveatur ut amoveatur – “promote him to get rid of him”), and their team of trusted collaborators was dispersed, because they were a threat to the system. The most valuable of them, Eugenio Hasler, was treated in an unspeakable manner by the “Pope of Mercy”: summoned to appear before him, he was dismissed on the spot without giving any reason, consigned to the ridicule of the media, and destroyed in his dignity.
It should also be remembered that the meritorious work of Cardinal Pell and other excellent administrators of the patrimony of the Apostolic See was blocked by groundless accusations and a true persecution in which the Australian cardinal suffered the unjust sentence of imprisonment, from which he was later completely acquitted. On the other hand, the architects of the Vatican’s financial collapse not only remain in place, but in addition they are now flanked by largely compromised individuals who are therefore extremely blackmailable and may be easily manipulated.
The Vatican scandals that have been emerging in recent months, including shareholdings in pharmaceutical companies that produce abortion drugs, cannot be covered up by window-dressing. Nor can the removal of Cardinal Becciu after his denunciation for property speculation in London mitigate the extremely grave culpability of those who believe they can charm public opinion with a bombastic Motu Proprio. The ones who have issued the Motu Proprio are the very ones who themselves created the conditions for corruption and conflict of interests, by removing the individuals who could have definitively healed a chronic situation of malpractice instead.
Once again, Bergoglio seems determined to discredit the image and prestige of the Church in order to put himself forward as a moralizer and gain personal advantage. But history teaches us that the cult of personality, so typical of dictatorships, easily turns into damnatio memoriae.
 Now, there is still another knowledge of God, in one sense superior to the aforementioned knowledge, and by this God is known to men through faith. In comparison with the knowledge that we have of God through demonstration, this knowledge through faith surpasses it, for we know some things about God through faith which, because of their sublimity, demonstrative reason cannot attain, as we said at the beginning of this work. Yet, it is not possible for man’s ultimate felicity to consist in even this knowledge of God.
 Felicity, indeed, is a perfect operation of the intellect as is clear from what we have said. But, in the knowledge of faith, there is found a most imperfect operation of the intellect, having regard to what is on the side of the intellect, though the greatest perfection is discovered on the side of the object. For the intellect does not grasp the object to which it gives assent in the act of believing. Therefore, neither does man’s ultimate felicity lie in this kind of knowledge of God.
 Again, we showed above, that ultimate felicity does not consist primarily in an act of the will. But in the knowledge of faith the will takes priority; indeed, the intellect assents through faith to things resented to it, because of an act of will and not because it is necessarily moved by the very evidence of the truth. So, man’s ultimate felicity does not lie in this knowledge.
 Besides, one who believes gives assent to things that are proposed to him by another person, and which he himself does not see. Hence, faith has a knowledge that is more like hearing than vision. Now, a man would not believe in things that are unseen but proposed to him by another man unless he thought that this other man had more perfect knowledge of these proposed things than he himself who does not see them. So, either the believer’s judgment is false or else the proposer must have more perfect knowledge of the things proposed. And if the proposer only knows these things by hearing them from another man, this cannot go on indefinitely, for the assent of faith would be foolish and without certitude; indeed, we would discover no first thing certain in itself which would bring certainty to the faith of the believer. Now, it is not possible for the knowledge of faith to be false and empty, as is evident from what we have said in the opening Book [I, 7]. Yet, if it were false and empty, felicity could not consist in such knowledge.
So, there is for man some knowledge of God which is higher than the knowledge of faith: either the man who proposes the faith sees the truth immediately, as is the case when we believe in Christ; or he takes it immediately from one who does see, as when we believe the Apostles and Prophets. So, since man’s felicity consists in the highest knowledge of God, it is impossible for it to consist in the knowledge of faith.
 Moreover, through felicity, because it is the ultimate end, natural desire comes to rest. Now, the knowledge of faith does not bring rest to desire but rather sets it aflame, since every man desires to see what he believes. So, man’s ultimate felicity does not lie in the knowledge of faith.
 Furthermore, the knowledge of God has been called the end because it is joined to the ultimate end of things, that is, to God. But an item of belief is not made perfectly present to the intellect by the knowledge of faith, since faith is of things absent, not of things present. For this reason the Apostle says, in 2 Corinthians (5:6-7), that “while we are in the body we walk by faith and we are absent from the Lord.” Yet God is brought into the presence of love through faith, since the believer assents to God voluntarily, according to what is said in Ephesians (3:17): “that Christ may dwell by faith in our hearts.” Therefore, it is not possible for ultimate human felicity to consist in the knowledge of faith.
Next - CONTRA GENTILES - BOOK THREE: PROVIDENCE -Chapter 41 WHETHER IN THIS LIFE MAN IS ABLE TO UNDERSTAND SEPARATE SUBSTANCES THROUGH THE STUDY AND INVESTIGATION OF THE SPECULATIVE SCIENCES
Fr. Livinius Esomchi Nnamani, who was ordained to the priesthood in his hospital room on Holy Thursday with special permission from Pope Francis, has died of leukemia at the age of 31.
The young priest’s funeral was held in Rome on April 26 at the parish of San Giovanni Leonardi. He had dedicated the last 23 days of his life to offering Mass from his hospital bed, a priest who knew him recalled.
“His altar was the [hospital] bed, where he was able to unite his sufferings to those of Christ. He lived and renewed his Eucharist in a strong and visible way and this is a great lesson for all priests,” Fr. Davide Carbonaro told Roma Sette, a newspaper of the Diocese of Rome.
“His gift was of a different priesthood, but at the same time, the same as that of every priest. His particular union with the sacrifice of Christ teaches us to celebrate with greater awareness,” he said.
Fr. Livinius had been studying at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, also known as the Angelicum, as a seminarian from Nigeria for the past two years while receiving medical care in Italy for his cancer.
After his condition took a turn for the worse, he wrote to Pope Francis asking to move forward his ordination date. Fr. Livinius had first entered religious life with the Order of the Mother of God in Nigeria ten years ago and had made his final vows in September.
The pope’s reply came on March 31 that the seminarian could be ordained the following day, Holy Thursday, according to Vatican News.
Bishop Daniele Libanori, an auxiliary bishop of Rome, ordained Fr. Livinius on April 1 at the Medica Group Casilino Hospital.
“As a priest, you will be joined with Jesus to make your body an offering pleasing to God. Our priesthood, indeed, reaches its peak when together with the bread and wine, we know how to offer all of ourselves, the things the Lord has given us, and our very lives,” Bishop Libanori said in his homily.
The new priest began his ministry right away by giving his blessing to doctors and nurses in the hospital. He died on April 23 after praying the Divine Mercy chaplet with his superior, another priest, and a young man discerning his vocation.
Following his funeral, Fr. Livinius’ remains will be transferred to his hometown in Nigeria, where he will be buried. The Angelicum will host a memorial Mass for the young man on May 3.
Fr. Carbonaro, the superior of the community that hosted Fr. Livinius during his time in Rome, reflected on what he had learned from the late priest’s witness.
“I have thought a lot about my priestly life: Livinius may not have had the opportunity that I had to proclaim the Gospel and serve the people of God, but the Lord chose him in this very special priesthood by uniting them with him,” he said.
“It makes me think a lot about praying and giving thanks for the priceless gift we have received out of love and only out of love. I am sure that his offering, combined with that of Christ, will do good to the Church and for the priests called to fall in love with their ministry … We are grateful to Pope Francis for this gift of fatherhood and tenderness.”