The radical dissolution of U.S. culture that rages every day in the streets really began after World War II. In order for us as Catholics to fight this war in which we find ourselves—and there is a war, and you are engaged, whether you like it or not—we first need to get a sense of what we’re up against.
As a former Marine, I can tell you that when troops train for combat, they learn not only their own weapons but also the weapons and the tactics of the enemy. We need to understand not only what’s going on out there but also the gravity of the situation. Only then can we talk about how to engage this culture war and win it.
The United States as a nation has always had its flaws. But the 1940s was about as close as you’re going to get to a national Golden Age. After the World War ended in 1945 and the Baby Boom began was certainly a high time in this country. And yet, only two years after World War, II, came the first of a series of eleven disastrous Supreme Court decisions that frame how our culture has declined over the past seven decades.
(1) Everson v. Board of Education, handed down in 1947, seemed innocuous enough. It had to do with mostly poor children in New Jersey being bused to parochial schools using public funds. The Court upheld the legality of paying with public funds for their transportation. But buried in the decision we find these lines:
“The First Amendment has erected a wall between church and state. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach.”
That reasoning has been lifted out of that decision and used many times subsequently by the Supreme Court to separate God and state, which was never the intent of the Founding Fathers. There were a couple of things that happened here. First, the Supreme Court had to come up with a reason for making statement like this. Nothing in the Constitution calls for a separation of church and state. What was the justices’ reasoning? They actually used the Fourteenth Amendment, which was adopted in 1868 to ensure the rights of former slaves.
When the Thirteenth Amendment, which granted freedom to the slaves, was passed, some Southern states took a stance that said in effect, “The slaves may have their freedom, but we’re going to pass so many laws to restrict their freedom that it will be practically nonexistent.” So the U.S. amended the Constitution to ensure that these laws in the South would not abridge the rights of freed slaves. In the process of doing that, the Fourteenth Amendment states:
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws (sec. 1).
The Bill of Rights, comprising the first ten amendments to the Constitution, ensured states’ rights against an overreaching federal government. But because the Fourteenth Amendment stated, “No state shall make or enforce any law,” the justices in 1947 retroactively applied that principle to the Bill of Rights, justifying the federal government doing things it had never done before—such as ruling on matters of faith, on matters of the rights of states and individuals when it comes to religion.
Our nation was founded on certain principles: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” In fact, in the Preamble of the Constitution, one of the stated purposes for the existence of government is to secure the blessings of liberty to us and our posterity.
For 150 years, it was understood that we as a people believed in God and that God, not the government, was the source of our rights. In fact, the role of the government was to protect our God-given rights. In one fell swoop in 1947, the Court turned that on its head and said government should have nothing to do with religion and vice versa.
Let me give you an example of the kind of insanity that follows from that principle. In (2) Roberts v. Madigan (1990), the Supreme Court—which for the first 150 years of our nation’s history would never have dreamed of going after the rights of individuals or states when it came to religion (the First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”)—ruled that it was unconstitutional for a classroom library in a public school to contain books that deal with Christianity.
It ruled it was unconstitutional for a public-school teacher to be seen with a personal copy of the Bible on school property. Can anyone explain how that is not “prohibiting the free exercise thereof”?
As Christians, we understand that in 1947, our country said to God, “We don’t want you in our public lives anymore.” And that is the greatest injustice that any nation can ever perpetrate, because God is owed worship, honor, and respect. Our Founding Fathers understood that. That’s why they wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident.”
Too often even Christians buy into this mythical divide between religion and public life. (We’ve all heard of Catholic politicians saying things such as, “I’m against abortion personally, but I can’t impose my beliefs on others.”) But the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “It is a part of the Church’s mission ‘to pass moral judgments even in matters related to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it’” (CCC 2246).
We must apply our religious beliefs to political matters. I like to put it this way: when you start slaughtering babies in the womb, you’re in our territory. When you start restricting worship because of health concerns in a way that other public gatherings are not restricted, you’re in our territory. And we had better stand up as Catholic Christians before all of our rights evaporate.
Prayer banned . . .
Another disastrous Supreme Court decision was (3) Engle v. Vitale (1962), which essentially outlawed prayer in public school. What was notable is that there was no precedent whatsoever. State legislatures, U.S. Congress, public schools—even the Supreme Court—had opened in prayer since our nation’s inception. Suddenly it was illegal.
The justices even admitted there was no precedent. They simply by fiat declared it unconstitutional to pray in a nation that touts religious freedom. The insanity reached another watershed in (4) Lee v. Weisman (1992). A rabbi was sued for beginning a commencement address at a public school with a prayer, and the Court upheld his guilt.
. . . but illicit sex unfettered
On the moral front, in (5) Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), the Court ruled it was unconstitutional to ban contraception. In order to justify this, the justices created ex nihilo a “right to privacy.” Just eight years later, this right transmogrified into the right to abortion. We had already said to God, “We don’t want you in our public life. We don’t want you in our schools.” And now, at this point we said to him, “We don’t want you in our marriages.”
But there’s a twofold purpose to the conjugal act: the union of one man and one woman and the procreation of children. If you eliminate either one, that act becomes gravely disordered. And ever since, our society has reaped the dark fruits of divorcing procreation from sex: high divorce rates, tens of millions of preborn babies killed, and rising incidences of rape and sexual violence.
Killing of the unborn
In 1973, the Court gave us the two-punch combination of (6) Roe v. Wade and (7) Doe v. Bolton. In the former case, the Supreme Court established a right to abortion based on that “right to privacy” that was created out of thin air in Griswold. This fiat declared the law in Texas outlawing abortion to be unconstitutional.
In the latter case, and on the same day, the Court went further, declaring abortion to be a “fundamental right” of women. Doe overturned the 1961 Georgia statute that outlawed abortion except in cases of rape, fetal deformity, or in cases where the mother was in danger of harm or death. The safest place in the world should be in the womb of a mother. In 1973 it became one of the most dangerous places to be.
The juridical malfeasance continued with (8) Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), which upheld the constitutional right to have an abortion. But the Court went light years beyond its purview, declaring: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”
That’s the level of insanity we’ve reached: we’ve declared ourselves to be God. You have to wonder whether the U.S. has a future when we allow such statements to stand.
More about sex
Our next Supreme Court case to consider is (9) Lawrence v. Texas (2003). This ruling overturned Bowers v. Hardwick (1986), a U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the constitutionality of a Georgia law criminalizing oral and anal sex in private between consenting adults when applied to homosexuals. Lawrence declared sodomy to be a right, and served as the foundation leading to the tenth Supreme Court decision we will visit.
(10) Obergefel v. Hodges (2015) ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
If the family is the foundation and strength of the Church as well as civilization—and it is—then we have truly pulled that foundation out from under our own feet in changing the definition of and therefore the essence of what marriage is. As Psalm 11:3 says: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”
And finally, in what could said perhaps to be the strangest decision since the infamous “Three-fifths Compromise” of Article 1, Section 2, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, (11) SCOTUS ruled (June 2020) regarding three lawsuits, with “conservative” justices Gorsuch and Roberts joining the four liberals on the bench, that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which made it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of a person’s race or sex, also covers sexual orientation and transgender status.
The fact that “sexual orientation” and “transgender status” have now been equated with sex and race is not only unscientific, it should be disturbing to all Christians as well as anyone who upholds a traditional view of morals or even a scientific view of the nature of a human being. Even though the ruling applies to employers discriminating in hiring, the 1964 Civil Rights Act extended far beyond mere hiring practices. And rightfully so, concerning discrimination on the basis of race or sex. But to equate these with the intrinsically disordered practice of homosexual “marriage” and “transgender”?
The time is now
There has never been a more important time for Catholics to engage politically. One can easily see how teaching that homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered, as Catholics do (see CCC 2357), could find the teacher on the wrong side of the law. And the same can be said for teaching the truth about transgenderism. One can only hope for there to be “conscience clauses” added to our consideration. But this is far from certain.
There are no “conscience clauses” when it comes to positing one race to be inferior to another. Barring real action on the courts, one can see priests and pastors, churches and synagogues, Christian colleges and universities and more, fined out of existence if they refuse to compromise their biblical and moral positions.
The good news is this: we are Catholics. We have faced down Nero. We have faced down Diocletian, Attila the Hun, the Mongols, the Muslims, more recently Hitler, Stalin—what are we afraid of? “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). All that has to happen for us as a people to reverse these cultural trends and to move us as a nation and as a Western culture back in the direction of virtue is for us to stand up and say, “No more.”
In the end, what we need to do is stand up as men and women of faith—stand up and let our voices be heard, and in every aspect of our culture declare, “We are not going to be ashamed of our Christianity any longer. We are not going to be ashamed of our Catholicism. We are going to shout it from the rooftops.”
And I believe that if we do that, 70 million U.S. Catholics acting like Catholics, we can, in a single generation, return this nation to its Christian roots—and to sanity.