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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The best observation of the campaign season.

And it comes from the ever-wise, always-witty pen of Mark Steyn, commenting on the weirdness of Rick Santorum:

Well, okay, say the Santorum detractors, but you guys are supposed to be the small-government crowd. Why is this any business of the state? A fair point, but one that cuts both ways. Single women are the most enthusiastic constituency for big government: A kiss on the hand may be quite continental, but statism is a girl's best friend. One can argue about whether the death of marriage leads to big government or vice versa, but simply raising the topic shouldn't put one beyond the pale, should it?

Let's take it as read that Rick Santorum is weird. After all, he believes in the sanctity of life, the primacy of the family, the traditional socio-religious understanding of a transcendent purpose to human existence. Once upon a time, back in the mists of, ooh, the mid–20th century, all these things were, if not entirely universal, sufficiently mainstream as to be barely worthy of discussion. Now they're not. Isn't the fact that conventional morality is now "weird" itself deeply weird? The instant weirdification of ideas taken for granted for millennia is surely mega-weird — unless you think that our generation is possessed of wisdom unique to human history. In which case, why are we broke?

Look, I get the problem with a Santorum candidacy. And I get why he seems weird to Swedes and Aussies, and even Americans. If you're surfing a news bulletin en route from Glee to Modern Family, Santorum must seem off-the-charts weird, like a monochrome episode that's been implausibly colorized from a show too old even for TV Land reruns. It would be healthier to thrash these questions out in the culture, in the movies and novels and pop songs. But Hollywood has taken sides, and the Right has mostly retreated from the field. And somebody has to talk about these things somewhere or other. Our fiscal crisis is not some unfortunate bookkeeping accident that a bit of recalibration by a savvy technocrat can fix. In the United States as in Greece, it is a reflection of the character of a people. The problem isn't that Rick Santorum's weird, but that a government of record-breaking brokeness already busting through its newest debt-ceiling increase even as it announces bazillions in new spending is entirely normal.

That ship sailed long ago. Then it was torpedoed, hit an iceberg, and was swamped by a series of rogue waves before being eaten by the Kraken.

Fr. Thomas Massaro would like you all to calm down.

I'm not going to fisk this, because it's an admirable sentiment, as far as it goes. Which means it stagged a step or two before dropping in a messy heap.

Yes, it would be nice if things in the world were more civil and respectful. That's fine.

But the problem with his call for civility is that he sees the white-hot anger as the problem rather than the symptom. It's not--the real problem goes far, far deeper than that, and has been savaging the Body of Christ for decades now.

The HHS mandate is just the catalyst causing it to explode to the surface.

The real problem is that the Church in America has fractured into at least two churches. If it hadn't been this issue, it would have been a dispute over the language of the liturgy, or the latest pronouncement from the Vatican, some university conferring honors on someone who is an open enemy of Catholic teaching or even the renovation of the local cathedral church. The struggle--more bluntly, low-grade civil war--between the churches has been going on since the last bit of incense dispersed at Vatican II. We don't agree on how to worship, what our schools should teach, what laws should be enacted/opposed, what canons apply and when or even what our parish church should look like. In fact, we can't even agree on whether or not Jesus actually rose from the dead.

And for forty five years, our shepherds have been trying to keep it together by careful tacking, including soothing rhetoric, trying to give everyone half a loaf or so (depending on the year, bishop and constituency) and generally trying not to see the coal pile in the ballroom.

But there's no avoiding it here. Every. Last. One. of the episcopate has weighed in against the assault on the Free Exercise Clause. Yet many self-identified Catholics see no problem with the attack, and significant numbers even support it. Which means those Catholics are in the wrong, and need to be called to account.

No amount of soothing rhetoric can do anything other than paper over what have become irreconcilable differences. Calling for a time-out, and a mutual affirmation of The Other not only misses the point, it actively makes things worse by forcing a suspension of moral judgment.

Winston Churchill once said "I decline utterly to be impartial as between the fire brigade and the fire." However well-intentioned, that is precisely what Fr. Massaro is trying to be, and worse, he is ignoring the facts on the ground.

The time for mediation has passed. It is now time to choose sides.