Helen Weir
Nor did they try
By Helen Weir
July 4, 2014

In the documentary "Imaginary Witness" (available to stream on Netflix), the Nazi Holocaust is referred to as the "Negative Absolute." Amidst the current balkanization of worldviews, in other words, one touchstone remains: the constellation of horrors once committed under the aegis of the swastika. We may or may not be able to "coexist" as the bumper sticker sagely recommends, but we pretty much agree that, if there is such a thing as "bad," the Holocaust qualifies.

That is why the whole question of what exactly happened during that tragic episode remains politically and socially supercharged, even as it recedes, decade by decade, further into the past. "No Hitler comparisons!" our culture cries (adding with a little asterisk, "except those concerning George W. Bush"). In a full disclosure moment, I will stipulate that I was among my countless good-willed countrymen of various denominational classifications, or of none at all, rejoicing at the Hobby Lobby outcome which was announced on the last day of June. I too found myself clinging closely to the media outlets available (in my radio market, that would be the Glenn Beck Show) actively covering the situation; my hands were raised heavenward in exultation and relief; my friends were hugged and texted; my knees were bent in homage and gratitude to God above. But is "victory!" the be-all and end-all of the story? Why, if that is the case, do so many Nazi-related observations come crowding, unbidden yet unbanishable, to the forefront of one's uneasy awareness?

"The resistance, or lack thereof, of the Christian churches to National Socialism, particularly to its Jewish policies has been the concern of a vast and still unconcluded literature which need have no recapitulation here," wrote James T. Burtchaell:
    But there are several assertions that can be made and substantiated. When Nazi anti-Semitism moved from talk to action, the party kept a wary eye peeled to see what Christian leaders would do. There were some early and vigorous remonstrances to the Nuremburg Laws. But the Nazis noticed then that the German churches took their stand, not on the pure issue of the human and civil rights of all Jews, but on an expedient and self-serving concern for Christian Jews. . . . So, when the liquidation program moved east, turned genocidal, and swept away millions, it was beyond the ability of the churches to oppose Hitler publicly and effectively. Nor did they try.[1]
"Not on the pure issue of human and civil rights." In the midst of our justified rejoicing over the recent SCOTUS rulings, we must still ask ourselves: Have we taken our stand on the pure issue of human and civil rights? Indeed, are we even trying?


(proclaimed an article posted on the USCCB website on April 8, 2013)

Goal is to secure religious liberty

Need freedom to serve common good without violating religious principles

"In voicing his support for bishops and other Catholic entities, (Archbishop William W. Lori of Baltimore) noted that '(the) goal is nothing less than securing the freedom of the Church to continue to obey the Lord's command – and observe the common good – by providing charitable ministries in health care, education, and service to the poor – all without compromising Catholic beliefs." Well, that goal has been, ostensibly and for "closely-held corporations," at least (whatever that may turn out to mean), but what about the nature of the goal itself?

"The appeals, though repeated and strenuous – and sometimes brave," Burtchaell went on to point out:
    never overcame the early perception that the churches had a more authentic interest in the religious rights of their own members than in the human rights of all mankind. Even when this position gave way to a straightforward outcry on behalf of the Jews, it was addressed to a government that had found the churches' range.[2]
We can see, with breezy hindsight, how wrong the "good Germans" were in setting their sights no higher than the non-interruption of their own existences. But what about us? What did the recent SCOTUS ruling say about the human rights of all mankind? What did we say about them ourselves?

One need not take a very powerful magnifying glass to the judicial logic proferred, in order to find out. Swing vote Anthony Kennedy ominously specified in his concurrence that "a premise of the Court's opinion is its assumption that the HHS regulation here at issue furthers a legitimate and compelling interest in the health of female employees.'"[3] In other words, the five good-guy Supremes evidently hold that contraceptives – including abortifacient ones – are a proper domain for governmental control: it's just that making the Greens, or other like-minded people, participate isn't really vital for the achievement of the government's totalitarian goals at the moment. Obamacare's anti-life takeover of the very definition of "healthcare" has been judicially affirmed, in other words, rather than rejected. And what has been the pro-life movement's response?

"EWTN Chairman and CEO Michael P. Warsaw," commenting on the financial stay of execution issued due to the Hobby Lobby decision, said:
    We are thankful that the Eleventh Circuit protected our right to religious freedom while we pursue our case in court. We want to continue to practice the Catholic faith that we preach to the world every day.[4]
And why not? Shouldn't we be thankful?

"By being asked to make exceptions, and by occasionally granting them," Hannah Arendt observed:
    and thus earning gratitude, (the Nazis) had convinced their opponents of the lawfulness of what they were doing.[5]
Our gratitude for being permitted to exercise a handful of our Constitutionally-guaranteed natural rights must not become so overwhelming that we find ourselves becoming convinced of the lawfulness of what this administration, like the entrenched anti-life movement it represents, is trying to do. Yes, we can – for the moment – continue as we were on the second-to-last day of June, but we must still take stock of simple facts. Before the Hobby Lobby ruling, the United States of America permitted all of its citizens to choose whether or not to support the killing of the innocent, by chemical or other means. Now, in the aftermath of that ruling, a few of us may, apparently, under certain uncertain circumstances, continue to withhold our support. Before January 22, 1973, the United States of America protected the right to life of unborn children, and born people as well. Now, the best we think we can do is to beg off paying for the unlimited killing that will not only be universally permitted, but even sponsored by the state? The article on the USCCB website says that the goal of the present litigation was "no less than" the preservation of our own religious liberty, and that may be so. But shouldn't – but mustn't – our goal be much, much more?

Where is our unflinching Christian, American, and human demand that our unborn brothers and sisters not be destroyed by "closely-held corporations" or any other; that the handicapped, elderly, and otherwise marginalized not be imperiled by a rationing system that blatantly prioritizes raw economics over their personal dignity, whether we ourselves are pressured to participate or not; and that our own allegiance not only to the Declaration of Independence but to the Creator whose authority it cites obliges us to withhold our civic gratitude until their rights, and not only ours, are guaranteed? Is it "practicing the Catholic faith" to internally regard and publicly represent the Church as but one special interest group among many, by holding merely that She not be made to facilitate the commission of the general bloodbath (implicitly, therefore, endorsing or at least omitting to condemn that commission by other groups), or is it failing to?

The mainstream pro-life movement has long been a proponent of the belief that the best outcome on the battlefield is to live to fight another day. And yet, it always seems to echo the voice of Peter Jackson's pseudo-Aragorn in declaring that, "This is not that day!" Well, when is it going to be? Haven't we reached, at long last, the point at which we truly must take our stand on the "pure issue of human and civil rights"?

Or has – God forbid – this government already found our own "range"?


[1]  Burtchaell, James T. Rachel Weeping: The Case Against Abortion. (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1982), p. 183.

[2]  ibid., p. 184.

[3]  Johnson, Ben. "SC sides with Hobby Lobby on HHS Mandate in 5-4 Decision." (lifesitenews.com, June 30, 2014).

[4]  Quoted in Weathers, Frank. "EWTN Wins Relief from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals One Day Before the Deadline." (patheos.com, June 30, 2014).

[5]  Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. (New York: Viking, 1965); quoted in Burtchaell, p. 186.

© Helen Weir


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