Saturday, June 9, 2012

The New Kulturkampf


By the mid-19th century, German Liberals, like many of their continental brethren had adopted the policy of anti-clericalism.  Specifically, the German Liberals were openly anti-Catholic.  Starting in 1862, however, the Liberals’ major opponent was not the Catholic Church, but the Conservative leader, Otto von Bismarck.  Bismarck consistently outmaneuvered the Liberals, much to their annoyance.  Since at least 1848 (if not 1830), the Liberals had championed German unity.  But by 1866, with the defeat of Austria by the Conservative-led Prussian government, the Conservatives were gaining popularity at the expense of the Liberals.  Therefore, the Liberals needed to regain both political relevance and leadership of the national movement.  Thus, they formed the Prussian National Liberal Party.  For the next decade, the National Liberals and Bismarck cooperated in the eventual unification of Germany by Prussia.

The National Liberals believed that political unification, partially achieved in 1871, was not full unification.  Rather, they had to achieve cultural unification.  Like so many before and since, the National Liberals believed that Catholics were a “foreign” influence in Germany.  Because Catholic ideas were inimical to their own and Catholics are “loyal” to a foreign pope, they had to be removed, in some cases, literally, from German society.

Bismarck, on the other hand, viewed the Catholic Church as a threat to his efforts to control the newly unified Germany.  Late in 1870, the German Catholics formed the Zentrum (Centre) Party as a defensive maneuver against the encroachment of Prussian Protestantism.  This only confirmed Bismarck’s suspicions of the political disloyalty of German Catholics.  Ironically, when the Vatican refused to order the Zentrum to curtail its parliamentary opposition to Bismarck, this only further infuriated him.

Bismarck believed in a state Church, not an independent Church; it should serve the needs of the State.  To accomplish his goal, the clergy must be controlled by the state, the masses must be intimidated, the association between Catholics and the Vatican must be broken, and the Zentrum must be demonized as unpatriotic.  Thus began the Kulturkampf, the “Struggle for Culture,” – a struggle for control of German Catholics by the German government that would last for the better part of twenty years.  (Spahn, Martin. "Kulturkampf." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 9 Jun. 2012 .)


As many now know, authoritarian governments from the past are not the only ones who seek to increase control over their populace.  In 2011, despite earlier promises to the contrary (http://www.usccb.org/news/archived.cfm?releaseNumber=10-142 ), Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, eliminated protection for faith-based conscience in the HHS Mandate requiring faith-based groups to act in ways contrary to their conscience, despite the fact that these protections have long existed (especially
 Church Amendments, 42 U.S.C. § 300a; the original act dates to 1973) [http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/civilrights/understanding/ConscienceProtect/42usc300a7.pdf]   See also, “The History and Effect of Abortion Conscience Clause Laws,” http://www.law.umaryland.edu/marshall/crsreports/crsdocuments/RS2142801142005.pdf from 2005.

Thus began a struggle between the State and the Church that Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, IL, characterized as another Kulturkampf (http://www.thecatholicpost.com/post/PostArticle.aspx?ID=2440 – this is his entire homily, not the judicious and intellectually bankrupt editing found in the mainstream media).  Bishop Jenky was roundly criticized in the media for, among other things, being an anti-Semite.  Many reporters, knowing little of the actual Kulturkampf, simply said he was foolish, ignorant, or, as one commenter on Huffington Post implied, a pedophile (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/10/bishop-daniel-jenky-petit_n_1507313.html).

Bishop Jenky’s comparison of the HHS Mandate to the Kulturkampf is frighteningly accurate.  The purpose of the Kulturkampf was to increase the power of the government over its people.  The purpose of the Mandate is control.  By forcing the Catholic Church to close down schools, hospitals, and charity organizations, the Obama administration will force those served by the Church to become dependent on the State.  The number of those served by the Church is impressive.  “There are more than 600 Catholic hospitals in the U.S., comprising about 12% of the total number of hospitals.” http://www.marquette.edu/theology/catholichealthcaremissionandethics.shtml.  “Catholic hospitals, for instance, took well over 100 million visits and admissions in 2009, while there are just over 68 million Catholics in America.” Likewise, “Catholic Charities USA, one of many Catholic charities, alone served almost 10 million people in 2009.” (Christopher T. Haley, “Creating a Catholic Ghetto,” First Things (25 August 2011) [http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2011/08/creating-a-catholic-ghetto]. Catholic Charities, like Catholic hospitals provide care for everybody, regardless of their religion (if any).  Further, in 2011-12, there were over two million students in 6,841 Catholic primary and secondary schools (http://www.ncea.org/news/annualdatareport.asp).  These are significant numbers of individuals who don’t depend on the State for medical care, education, and charity.  The worldview of the Obama administration cannot tolerate such independence.  Thus, it must destroy the Church’s role in these important activities.  If some are hurt because of this, it doesn’t matter because it serves the greater good of social engineering.

Barack Obama is, himself, the product of successful social engineering as evidenced in the chilling review essay by Angelo M. Codavila, “The Chosen One,” in the Claremont Review of Books (Summer 2011) (http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.1852/article_detail.asp).  Obama is a product of the elite vanguard of the New Left, “That class knows about America only that it must be changed, and looks at the vast majority of Americans the way carpenters look at warped pieces of lumber. Barack Obama is neither more nor less than its product and agent.”  Decimating the Catholic Church in America is a necessary step towards the control and social engineering of America.

Reacting against the defensive response of the Catholic Church to the Mandate, Obama, the Democratic National Committee and his supporters in the media, NARAL, Planned Parenthood, Moveon.org, the Huffington Post, and others have quickly moved to demonize the Church.  In a coordinated attack, they charge that the Church has launched a “war against women.”  However, the only person to use the term “war” was HHS Secretary Sebelius when referring to the government’s struggle, among other things, in support of the Mandate (http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2011/10/06/sebelius-0).  Furthermore, as noted above, the Church has long provided healthcare for women through their hospitals and charities – hardly the action of an organization bent on a war against women.


Obama and his allies have further vilified the Church as trying to prevent all women from purchasing birth control devices and medications, abortions, and other medical care.  That so many people would accept this absurd argument as fact speaks volumes about anti-Catholic bigotry.  Perhaps an analogy will demonstrate the absurdity of this statement.  Is the Catholic Church demanding the right to enter people’s homes and search for contraceptive devices?  Is the Church threatening to fine people if it finds such devices?  Is the Church threatening to imprison people if it comes back later and finds these devices?  Of course not – that’s absurd.  Under the provisions of the Mandate, those who don’t pay for goods and services that are opposed to their religious and moral beliefs face fines, imprisonment, and loss of property.  To complete the analogy, it is the State who is breaking into the house of the Church and committing violence against it, not the other way around. 

Another way that Obama and his allies demonize the Catholic Church is by arguing that it’s solely the Catholic Church complaining about the Mandate because of its stand on contraceptives.  This is another lie.  The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s statement on the Mandate begins, “The administration’s so-called `contraceptive mandate’ requiring health plans to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs and devices is a blatant assault on faith.” (http://faithandfamily.com/article/erlc-comments-on-hhs-mandate-and-its-threat-to-religious-freedom).  The Center for Public Justice declares the Mandate is a violation of religious freedom (“The Contraceptive Mandate Violates Religious Freedom,” by Chelsea Langston http://www.capitalcommentary.org/conscience-protection/contraception-mandate-violates-religious-freedom). In February 2012, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins presented a letter signed by 2500 religious leaders, mostly Protestant, declaring the Mandate was really an assault on religious freedom.  Even USA Today printed an editorial declaring “Contraception mandate violates religious freedom.” (http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/story/2012-02-05/contraception-mandate-religious-freedom/52975796/1).  Thus, it is obvious that the opposition to the Mandate is not a Catholics-only issue but an issue, widely regarded by a broad spectrum of individuals and groups as a violation of the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.  The Church’s opposition isn’t about the various contraceptives but rather the Mandate that the Church must pay for these in violation of their long-standing tenets.  The Church’s opposition is a defense of its First Amendment right to religious freedom.

The Mandate, then, cannot simply be about contraception – it is about control.  In April 2012, Sebelius admitted to a Congressional committee that “she did not consult Supreme Court decisions on religious liberty or have a legal memo prepared before she drafted the mandate.”  (http://www.becketfund.org/hhs-secretary-sebelius-admits-no-consideration-of-constitution-while-drafting-hhs-mandate).  This is hardly surprising because the issue is not legality or constitutionalism but the power of the State to control its populace.
Bishop Jenky’s characterization of the actions of the Obama administration as a new Kulturkampf is reasonably accurate.  Like Bismarck, Obama seeks to control a group opposed to his grand schemes.  A crucial part of that plan is the demonizing of the opponent.  Like Bismarck, Obama’s actions make it clear that he hopes to close down Catholic schools, hospitals, and charitable organizations.  If they resist, like Bismarck, he will dispossess them of their property. 

For those not worried about the loss of religious liberty by Catholics, perhaps they should re-read Martin Niem√∂ller’s statement that begins, “First they came for the ….”

1 comment:

This Meridian Heat said...

It is distressing to see the Administration take this path. Either the President really IS as left wing and anti-clerical as many of his critics have long claimed, or he is doing the typical demagogic shuffle in which you gain popularity by blaming others for problems. Any two-bit dictator knows how it works: as Hugo Chavez demonstrates over and over again, blame the US for all your ills, since doing so distracts from the mess you've created and also makes you look tough standing up to the bogeyman. In our case, the President gets to look tough by picking a fight with a powerful institution. If you object, you're on the side of a creaky of medieval nstitution that oppresses women.